Take a Drink: when somebody gets ganked
Take a Drink: for each new strong female leader Take Two: if she’s named Mary
Take a Drink: for suitors
Take a Drink: when Elizabeth snaps on someone
Take a Drink: when Geoffrey Rush does something slimy
Do a Shot: for Elizabeth’s Godfather moment
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Cate Blanchett is such a force of nature that it seems like she’s always been around, commanding the screen in every role she takes.
She even made this nonsense halfway watchable.
Her breakthrough was only in 1998, however, with Elizabeth, which doesn’t feel all that long ago to me (but there are drivers out there not even born then… fuck, am I old now?) Anyway, it was only her second leading role after 1997’s Aussie-only Oscar & Lucinda, which makes it all the more stunning.
Elizabeth documents the perilous rise of Queen Elizabeth I as she combats internal threats and court intrigues, religious sectionalism, and the idea that the only way she can secure her crown is by marrying the right man.
Don’t be put off by its prestige pic reputation; Elizabeth is history turned into a convoluted, juicy power struggle. It’s hardly accurate, but does give you the broad sweep of this tumultuous period in a truly singular woman’s life, and getting caught up by and surrendering to the schemes, power plays, and betrayals is fine entertainment.
Closer to this than you’d imagine, I hear.
Most of the acting from a ridiculously stacked cast of recognizable British faces plays to this level, from Geoffrey Rush’s conniving string-puller to Fanny Ardant’s icy mortal enemy and Vincent Cassel’s ridiculous foppish turn as her son to Daniel Craig’s intense Terminator-like assassin. Blanchett single-handedly elevates the film from enjoyable camp to something with higher aspirations, though. She plays an independent, free-thinking woman reluctantly trying to preserve and rule her nation as its Queen in a world diametrically opposed to all of those things. She’s charming, even demure at first, but as her challenges mount her backbone just gets stronger and stronger, up until a finale that might give Michael Corleone pause.
That’s not a horse head in your bed… it’s your own.
Director Shekhar Kapur delivers top-notch production values- sumptuous set design and locations, vibrant costuming, eye-catching hairstyling and makeup, sweeping cinematography by Remi Adefarasin, and a nice mix of period-appropriate music and a rousing score by David Hirschfelder.
Pretty, pretty Joseph Fiennes and his male treachery are given a bit too much shrift. Besides the very tangential historical basis for his and Elizabeth’s love, the fact that the film makes Elizabeth’s jilting the prime motivation for her decision to rule alone and her Virgin Queen reputation is frankly a tad insulting to one of history’s strongest women. Whispering “Dudley” on her deathbed, my flat Hank Hill ass.
Sorry prettyboy, you ain’t no Helen of Troy
While the plot is generally quite enjoyable outside of that, it’s undeniably more soap opera than history lesson, and sometimes the filmmaking follows suit, with plenty of washed out lighting effects, soft focus, and what I like to call “Vaseline Lens”. Just focus the damn camera.
Elizabeth may be more interested in entertainment than history, but delivers a host of compelling characters (particularly strong female ones) and reliably delivers on the former.