Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cate Blanchett is THE QUEEN!

Almost a decade after they lit up the screen in the acclaimed Elizabeth, Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, and director Shekhar Kapur reunite for the follow-up Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Even more lavishly produced than the previous one, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is, like the 1998 film, a thriller gussied up as a costume drama, but it makes the same mistake that so many sequels do: it mistakes bigger for better.

Blanchett is always interesting to watch. Her coolness comes through all the time. If she hadn't participated, then it wouldn't be worth watching at all. But it's Morton as Mary, Queen of Scots, imprisoned and super-pissed off about it, that gives the movie momentary jolts of energy.

Kapur's sequel picks up in 1585, the 27th year of her reign. The tone of this film is melodramatic, focusing on the unconsummated love between Elizabeth (Blanchett) and Raleigh (Owen). Adding salt to the wound, Elizabeth tosses her comely lady-in-waiting Bess Throckmorton (Cornish) at Raleigh, whose attention becomes so diverted that he ironically falls in love with Bess. Ooh – catfight in the court … almost. Blanchett, however, is such an amazing actor that she renders even this foolishness watchable.

There is also military intrigue as King Philip II of Spain tries to save the country from the Protestantism and make Europe again safe for Catholicism. Dramatic battle sequences follow. There's also the sidebar plot involving Elizabeth's doomed-to-be-headless half-sister Mary (Morton), although there's either too little or too much of Mary's predicament presented here to make much of an impression. Kapur's shots are beautifully composed, and the costumes and decor add to the film's delicious production design. Despite good performances all around, particularly the ever-brilliant Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a gilded ornament, speculative and uninterested in much besides this queen's matters of heart. We are to believe, based on the Queen's prayers, that God shifted the actual wind that caused the Spanish Armada to be defeated. Theological lesson: The Almighty Creator likes England better than Spain.

"The character of Queen Elizabeth has been a huge magnet for actresses from Bette Davis, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench — and there will be many Elizabeths after mine. There is much to be said about being a female leader...She was so far ahead of her time, if you think about it. I have no doubt that if Botox had been available in her day, Elizabeth would have been the first in line for an injection. She was quite vain. But I don't think her beauty regimen was that dissimilar to what actresses go through on Oscar morning. The techniques are different, but the goal is the same." - Cate Blanchett

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