Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

In Cate Blanchett's 1998 Elizabeth, the poignant film established a young woman trying to stay alive while wondering what lay in the future for her monarchy. Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the murky successor to that film.

Much of the problem with The Golden Age is that it can't decide what story it wants to tell, and so flits between politics, Elizabeth's singleness, and her friendship with Raleigh. Oh, and also her dealings with Mary, Queen of Scots. And the war with Spain, fought in the English Channel.

There is much to admire here. There are several stirring scenes in this film, ones that sharply illuminate Elizabeth. For instance, this passage of dialogue between Elizabeth and her cabinet:

Queen Elizabeth: "How many Catholics are there in England, sir?"
Cabinet Minister #1: "Immense numbers, Majesty."
Cabinet Minister #2: "Half the nation cling to the old superstitions."
Queen Elizabeth: "What would you have me do? Hang half the people in England, or just imprison them?"

When the dialogue explains more about Elizabeth's inner struggle, it sings. However, much too often, the dialogue would sink into sound bites. However, I must admit, they're the type of sound bites we enjoy so much from our favorite queen, arguably the most powerful woman to have ever lived.

Queen Elizabeth: "By God, England will not fail while I am Queen!"

The camera angles drove me crazy. First the fog, the out-of-focus blur, then slowly into focus on a face. Over and over. Weird camera angles. Those stylistic changes were jarring.

Much of the time in the film is spent with the lead characters, Elizabeth and Raleigh, standing still in a pose in fantastic garments, being used almost as a model as the camera moves in closer to adore them all the more. It's just as well -- I have no idea how Cate Blanchett was going to move in those stiff costumes.

And then there's the bending of history. Do you really mean to tell me that Elizabeth stood on a hillside near Dover, dressed only in her nightgown? I mean, maybe she did, but never without the wig!

Speaking of wigs, the number of wigs used in this movie probably numbered more than in Dreamgirls. And we're just talking about Elizabeth. In my own opinion, however, the wigs in The Golden Age are the ugliest wigs I've ever seen.

It's opulent, it's grand, it's epic. But the pacing is slow, the story is all over the place, there's continual warping of time and events, and you think you're watching through a kaleidoscope. Oh, and by the way - Sir Walter Raleigh won the battle against the Spanish Armada. Francis Drake was a mere sidekick.

Watch for Cate. Watch Geoffrey Rush's Walsingham. Enjoy the costumes and gorgeous sets. But don't take this film as history.

Thumb's up, but only marginally.


Post a Comment

<< Home