“we mortals have many weaknesses”

Perhaps the negative reviews lowered my expectations, but I found Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Shekhar Kapur, UK, 2007) to be quite good in a (surprisingly) retro way. The latest installment in a very particular tradition that seemed to have been discarded by Hollywood long ago, Cate Blanchett joins the likes of Kate Hepburn and Bette Davis by  heading an overstuffed royal costume drama of the type that toss together a tempest of costumes, elaborate coiffures, talented actors, and a rather random amalgamation of historical facts in the hopes that the lead actress’s larger-than-life talent would be the magic ingredient that would cause it to all coalesce together into something entertaining, and perhaps even enlightening (you know, flesh out the lives of enigmatic figures from the past and all that). Regardless, The Golden Age has been accused of being many things: too bombastic, too fast and loose with the facts, too wasteful of an enviable collection of acting talent, too kitschy, not kitschy enough…

But one just needs to recall to mind the overstuffed primness of Davis’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (and the rather inconsequential roles the likes of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland were relegated to in that film) to put The Golden Age into perspective.  By plundering the art department and playing to the cheap seats Blanchett, Kapur & Co. have come up with something that’s not only ravishing to look at, but is damn entertaining. Admittedly, it’s not the role that is going to garner Blanchett her long-overdue Best Actress Oscar (which might be the root of some of the backlash), but beneath the wigs and bejeweled gowns the actress is just as good as ever.


2 thoughts on ““we mortals have many weaknesses”

  1. An intriguing defense of the film (that you should definitely expand upon – could be an interesting project), and I definitely agree that it’s far from the disaster some are insisting it is. Like I said before, I thought it was fairly entertaining and provided great eye candy.

    But I disagree about Blanchett – Elizabeth is supposed to be in her 50s at this point. Covering the actress in thick makeup and having her chew the scenery doesn’t quite convince. How good would Judi Dench have been here?

  2. Ali– I’m not really sure if I could carry the defense much further, unless I tracked down Mary, Queen of Scots starring Kate Hepburn, which someone I know has stated is even more like Golden Age than Elizabeth and Essex is. I hear it’s a dreadful film though…

    Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me until I read your review that Cate’s age is historically inaccurate, so it didn’t bother me while I was actually watching the film. Yes, Dench would have been godly, but I don’t think it detracts from the film itself.

    Anyway, it’s good to hear from you. I’ve been meaning to email for a while now.


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