Golden Age (5/10)
by Tony Medley
This is a film
with a terrific cast, Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I, Geoffrey Rush
as her adviser, Sir Francis Walsingham, Clive Owen as Sir Walter Ralegh,
and the gorgeous Abbie Cornish as
Elizabethís lady-in-waiting, Bess Throckmorton. Unfortunately, it is terminally
It tells the story
of a tumultuous part of Elizabethís life, covering her execution of her
cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), and the defeat of the
Spanish Armada. It is told in such a histrionic and superficial manner
by director Shekhar Kapur and writers William Nicholson and Michel Hirst,
that the cast is left to thrash around to save it.
The story of
the destruction of the Spanish Armada is particularly noxious. According
to Kapur & Co., the mighty Armada was sunk, you should pardon the
expression, because Ralegh (Sir Walter never spelled his name with an ďiĒ)
set his ship aflame and single-handedly sailed it into the middle of the
Armada, setting all 4,000 ships afire and
kingdom was saved. Well, so much for accuracy.
Better done are
Elizabethís loneliness, isolation, and the betrayal of her affection by
two of the people to whom she gave it, Bess and Sir Walter. The daughter
of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth had lots of psychological
barriers to overcome, like, for instance, the fact that her father
murdered her mother.
Blanchett gives a
good performance as the lonely, but strong, queen, despite the script
and direction. There is one scene that epitomizes the deplorable
melodramatic tone of the film. During the battle with the Armada,
Elizabeth goes to the edge of a cliff and looks out at the burning
ships. We see her from a side shot with her gown blowing behind her. It
looks like a lithograph. I can see that it was probably a difficult
scene to set up, and that they were working hard to get a memorable
visual image, but it comes across as passť, something D.W. Griffith
might have done, or maybe a scene more appropriate to Mourning
Becomes Electra (1947).
Poor Clive Owen. I
still think of him as a potential star, but, except for Closer I
canít think of a really good film in which heís acted. I liked King
Arthur, but have to admit that it wasnít a particularly terrific
film. I still think he would have been a much better James Bond than
buff Daniel Craig, but if he keeps acting in inferior films, Iím going
to be forced to reevaluate his abilities.
The best part of
this film for me is Abbie Cornish. She is beautiful and can act. Making
the most of her role, she is a rising star.
September 27, 2007