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The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The critics are wrong! This is the greatest plea against hatred ever
I've been reading about and curiously awaiting this film for months, and now that I've finally seen it for myself, I can only say first "what a powerful experience!" and second, "how can so many critics be so wrong?"
I am a Christian, and like Mel Gibson, a Catholic. I share his beliefs about the suffering and death of Jesus. But like the powerful filmmaker he is, he took me to an understanding of that death and what it means for all of us that I never before had, or ever expected to have. I'd like to add that the slanders against against Mel in the press -- that's he's an ultratraditionalist who is anti-Semitic, doesn't accept Vatican II, etc. -- are utterly false. His interview with Diane Sawyer proved that his mind is with the Church (he merely prefers Tridentine-rite Masses as many orthodox Catholics do). His screening of his film for John Paul II proves it. Above all, his film proves it. This is a beautiful, compassionate film brimming with sorrowful love for humanity.
From the very first moments, when I saw the anguished and terrified Jesus weeping in Gethsamane, I was drawn in by the emotion. Jim Caviezel transformed himself so utterly into a first-century Palestinian Jew speaking Aramaic that there was absolutely not disbelief to be suspended -- I was there. I watched his suffering with what felt like a ten-ton weight of sorrow on my chest and often overflowing eyes. The attractive strength and grace this wonderful actor showed in the flashbacks to his preaching and the Last Supper moved me even more for Jesus' sorrows. (I would love to watch him in a film of the complete life of Christ).
And how can I ever forget the heart-wrenching, haunting (and nearly wordless) portrayal of Jesus' mother Mary by Jewish actress Maia Morgenstern? Mary suffers so much with her Son, but she knows why it has to be done. When I heard her say "so be it" to the beginning of the Way of the Cross, I thought back to what C. S. Lewis said -- there must have been a lot of iron as well as gentleness in the Virgin. All the other performances were equally compelling.
The violence was brutal and harrowing, true, but I didn't find it as difficult to watch as I have other violent films (I had to keep my eyes closed during the whole first half hour of "Saving Private Ryan"). Here I was held fast to the screen. I thought: If Jesus suffered this for me, I can certainly bear to watch it. And I did.
The film's reality was amazing. I might quibble with a few historical details, but that is definitely beside the point. Most of all, I admire the way that Mel has understood the meaning of the Passion and not wavered from it. In this film, he couldn't show the whole of the teachings of Christ. He concentrated on the teaching about love. It was done almost entirely through the actions of the characters and a few well-chosen words.
That is why those who say this movie is hate-filled, or will incite anti-Semitism are wrong. Many people, of course, have said that already here. But I don't think anyone has pointed out just how deeply the message of universal love comes through the film. Everyone is lined up on one side or another. Either you love or you do not. Either you show compassion or you do not. Critics are arguing over whether the Jews or the Romans were responsible. They argue whether Pilate is depicted more sympathetically than Caiaphas. This totally misses the point.
There are two very different, but equally horrible, types of guilt here. Caiaphas, the high priest, is depicted as a grim, narrow-minded fanatic, implacably self-righteous. People claim he wasn't seen as being "conflicted" like Pilate. But self-righteous fanaticism isn't very often conflicted (I imagine Osama bin Laden sleeps pretty well nights. His kind always do). But this type of hatred isn't confined to a single time or to one religion. It is with us always. The film does not show the whole Sanhedrin this way, much less the whole Jewish people. Other members of the Sanhedrin protest the unfairness and illegality of the trial. Many ordinary Jews show compassion for Jesus.
Is Pilate conflicted? Sure. He's conflicted over which course of action will best save his own skin. He tells his second-in-command to have Jesus beaten within an inch of his life "but don't kill him." There is no real compassion in this man. Pure political calculation is like that. To underscore this, Gibson has Pilate's wife cut through his self-pitying "what is truth" monologue by saying "if you can't hear truth, no one can tell you." Then she goes out and crosses the racial and social barriers to show compassion to the mother of Jesus. Truth IS compassion.
Racism and hatred are rampant everywhere in this film. And it is significant that the racism is entirely directed by the Romans against the Jews. Pilate complains about the Jews as a smelly rabble he doesn't like or understand, as he stays completely isolated in his palace. When Simon of Cyrene, who is forced by the Romans to help Jesus carry the cross, and who at first doesn't want to get involved, begins to show compassion for Jesus, the Roman soldiers kick him and spit out "Jew" at him.
And the message was carried through to its unbearable but triumphant conclusion. I watched as Jesus was scourged until his back was a bloody pulp. I watched as he said "My heart is ready, Father," and embraced the terrible cross. I watched him forgive his tormenters again and again, and even, when he was almost unable to move because of the pain, crawl to the cross so he could lay his arms be nailed, so we could be saved from our hatred and violence. No, this film does not incite hatred! Jesus even forgives Caiaphas specifically. And how does the fanatic react? Well, it's enigmatic, but -- just watch for yourself.
I think the problem so many secular film critics have is that they are unwilling to face the real cause of violence and hatred, much less face its real cure. They want to dwell on anything but that. They want to have a film with Caiphas and Pilate politely debating politics, because that's what they're comfortable with. They want to argue about who had the most guilt 2,000 years ago, so they can ignore their own. They want the death of Jesus to be about anything but what it really was about -- the reality of sin, especially violence and hatred, and our need to be saved from it. And the hypocritical ranting about violence! The lovers of "Kill Bill" suddenly crying "ICK! Get that blood OFF me!" In fact, the majority of U.S. film critics would get my nomination for Pontius Pilates of the Year. They don't want the blood on them and they wash their hands of this film. But if we truly understand, then like Mary at the foot of the cross, we will embrace not only Jesus, but his saving blood as well.
Alex & Emma (2003)
"Alex and Emma" has nifty opening credits, done in a kind of 1920's art-deco style that mirrored the 1920's story within a story. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. This isn't a bad or reprehensible movie, just a dull, uninspired one.
What went wrong? That's what I kept asking myself all the time I was watching it. Rob Reiner is (or was) a fine director; after all, he made "When Harry Met Sally," the gold standard for romantic comedies. The idea had some promise: a writer's work reflects and is reflected by his real life and love. Usually I really love this type of literary stuff. So why???
Partly the fault lies with the script. Reiner seems to have literally thrown Jeremy Leven's first rough draft up on the screen. The script is so poorly thought out even in its basics that you can't believe any thought was devoted to it.
For instance, if you were a Cuban thug and your only way of getting the money a guy owes your Mafia boss is to make sure your victim gets an advan ce for his book, would the first thing you do really be to destroy the computer he's writing it on? Evidently Cuban thugs aren't very bright (at least not in this movie). Alex's need for a stenographer is unbelievable too. He couldn't ask his editor for the loan of just a few dollars to rent a laptop or at least a typewriter? (Maybe they should have had the thugs break his arm, so he would have to hire a stenographer). And why lie to her right off the bat for no reason -- no reason, that is, except that in a romantic comedy, the guy always lies to the girl? Again, Adam, the lead in the novel that Alex is writing is supposed to be going on vacation to write the great American novel, but we never hear of him writing a word once he gets there.
The general lack of imagination extends to the supposed comic bits, such as Emma being the au pairs of different nationalities, but almost nothing was done with the idea except to have her speak in funny accents for a few seconds for each one.
The flat, uninteresting characterizations are another problem. The ones in the 1920's story are, like the art deco credits, quite literally cartoons. The story within the story, as well as the writer-falls-in-love-with-stenographer idea, was taken from Dostoevsky's "The Gambler," but something sure as heck got lost in translation. Sophie Marceau is wasted in her role.
Alex and Emma themselves are no better. They are tenth-generation copies of the most stereotypical romantic comedy hero and heroine. Alex is your average nice guy, clueless in the generic way about women; Emma is the combination of anal-retentive annoyance and adorable ditz patented by Meg Ryan in "When Harry met Sally." (Her character is also astonishingly uninformed about the purpose and nature of literature, probably so Alex can explain it to the audience; this doesn't help).
I guess Reiner knows that this has worked before. Maybe that's the problem. Couldn't Alex, as a modern writer, have more edge? A little beard stubble is not enough. And a woman who wants to criticize a man's approach to romance, writing a sex scene, etc., could do much better than Emma does (though Adam's idea of a sex scene for his novel is one of the only vaguely witty bits in the film).
No matter how good the performances were, they couldn't save this movie. Luke Wilson is one of the most uncharismatic actors I know, and he seems barely able to move his body (though he at times has a nice energy with the lines and good comic timing). Kate Hudson at times is radiant, and is perhaps the thing most worth watching in this mess. She tosses off her accents with aplomb too.
But why can't there be a little re-thinking of the romantic comedy? It's getting a real black eye and a bad name it doesn't really deserve, as so many snide comments by guys on this site prove.
And for you guys on imdb who snicker at the very idea of "chick flicks" -- just go watch another movie based on a COMIC BOOK, OK?
Far from Heaven (2002)
Far From Perfect
(Possible mild spoiler)
I was quite disappointed in "Far from Heaven". It was widely praised as a stylistic exercise, but what's style without substance? Yes, racism and homophobia are bad. But the movie took the safest, most conventional approach to telling the story -- it was all cliches and stereotypes and self-righteousness.
I think the fifties films may have been better at treating the issues because they weren't so concerned about being politically correct. The only Douglas Sirk film that I have seen, "Imitation of Life," was actually braver in the way it treated racial issues. In fact, it was downright corrosive. There you had a young light-skinned black girl so desperate to pass in white society she wouldn't recognize her dark-skinned mother in front of her friends. The self-loathing and hatred of one's background that this betrays truly shows the ugliest thing about racism. This story involved a messy human struggle. (OK, the ending was over the top). But in "Far from Heaven" the black characters were all stereotypical saints.
Even on the stylistic side, as an imitation of Sirk or 50's melodrama, I didn't think the film got it right. Yes, on the visual side, it was great: the imitation Technicolor was gorgeous, the art direction and costumes were superb, and the score swelled beautifully. But it was too self-aware for me not to be aware of the artificiality. Plus, where is the grand, cheesy, overripe dialogue of 50's films? "Far from Heaven's' dialogue sounded like a bland stilted parody of a 50's TV sitcom. And the style was regularly broken in a very jarring way for me by the curses and four-letter words that never would have been allowed in a 50's film. I guess they had to do something to get an `adult' PG-13 rating.
I will say that it was very well acted all the way. Julianne Moore did manage to move me. She had the hardest part, because her character of the 50's housewife is the easiest to laugh at as a stereotype today. But she handled it beautifully. It was the moments when the conventional facade cracked and her real feeling came out that were most effective, especially at the end, when she has a microsecond or so of a breakdown while talking with Raymond in the garden. Dennis Quaid has never been better. Dennis Haysbert had tremendous strength and dignity.
Poor Hollywood though. They must be exhausted finding examples of "repression" to point out in their relentless war to "liberate" us all. They must realize they don't have any more work to do in our decade. Does anyone in the U.S. today strike you as "repressed' in any way at all?? - witness our reality show craze. So Hollywood has to go back to the 50's to find examples of "repression" to stomp on. With its clueless notion of what our culture needs, and its laughably simplistic reading of racial issues well, what's the point?
Down with Love (2003)
"Pillow Talk" was a hundred times more sophisticated than this!
"Down with Love,' as everyone has heard by this time, is an attempt to recreate the time period, look and feel of the 1959 Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy `Pillow Talk' and other 50's-60's romantic comedies like it. But I have a feeling that the screenwriters, Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake, never actually saw the original, which was a hundred times smarter, funnier and more sophisticated than their uninspired efforts to lampoon it.
As the script would have it, women were still unenlightened when Barbara Novak comes to New York to promote her new book `Down with Love,' arguing for sexual equality in the bedroom as well as the boardroom. She catches the attention of playboy journalist Catcher Block, who sets out to prove that she's a fake and really only desires romance and marriage, like all women. Renee Zellweger, with her adorably scrinched-up face and perpetual pout, is Barbara, and Ewan McGregor, while a bit scrawny for the Rock Hudson part, is suave and charming as Catcher. They are supported by the always funny David Hyde Pierce as Catcher's editor, in the fussy-neurotic Tony Randall part (of course!) and Sarah Paulson as Barbara's friend and editor. They are great, and so is the candy-colored decor and the kicky 60's clothes, but the film is a dud, because it never decides what attitude to take toward the material-or even what era it's mocking.
While much of the film's plot derives from 1959's `Pillow Talk,' the plot device of Barbara's proto-feminist book is very similar to the 1964 comedy with Natalie Wood, `Sex and the Single Girl.' (Neatly splitting the time difference, `Down with Love' is set in 1962). The country certainly traveled a long way between 1959 and 1964. The film seems to raises the question: which will come off better, 1959 female `repression' or 1964-and-later `liberation?' As for what the screenwriters think, I have no idea. Their premise is a muddle and the script never elucidates it.
But just between us, I think 1959 actually comes off better. The characters Doris played would have utterly disdained Barbara's ideas about women being as promiscuous as some men. She was self-confident enough as a woman to know she didn't need to imitate men (and the worst of men at that). And as for getting ahead in the workplace. . .well, Doris didn't need any advice on how to become an independent career woman. She just was one. Today's filmmakers don't seem to understand the era at all; it was more advanced than they think.
This movie makes even more painfully obvious something I've come to feel more and more lately: that `political correctness,' is one of the greatest enemies of modern movie storytelling. Trying to be self-consciously `retro' while remaining completely ignorant of the past makes it even worse! In addition, the writers seem to be knocking themselves out to play it safe; they make sure we know that they know that feminism is good. . . `only not too much; that women are of course, to be free to have sex promiscuously like men; but in the end, they really prefer romance. We're for the sexual revolution, but for marriage too, you understand; we don't want to offend anyone. Please, please, like us. . .' As a result, the story, while going through the paces, has nowhere to go. Barbara and Catcher seem to be nervously working out a political position paper rather than engaging in a romance. By the end, after a plot twist or two that reverses everything you've previously thought about the characters, you just don't care.
Nor is this movie in any way as witty and sophisticated as the original. The sex gags are obvious and labored. You may remember that in the most memorable scene in `Pillow Talk,' Doris and Rock, in their separate bathtubs in a split-screen shot, appeared to be playfully touching bare toes as they talked on the phone. `Down with Love' tries to replicate this with modern explicitness, having the characters mime various kinky sexual positions -- and it just doesn't work. The earlier scene was sweet -- and sizzling. The modern one is just silly and smutty. Of course, they had to be sure that today's Austin-Powers-watching kids would get it. For some reason, the writers think they are striking a blow for `real' sexiness on screen, as opposed to the `quaint' and chaste original. Ah, but real sexiness lies in the art of suggestion -- and true sophistication is trusting your audience to get the joke without thinking you have to whack them over the head with it.
Few screen pairings were ever as funny and sexy as Doris Day and Rock Hudson, and you really couldn't expect that here, with the script working totally against the performers. Ewan and Renee did offer a few sweet moments. Their song and dance over the closing credits was also terrific. It's a pity, because they are both such delightful performers. They deserved a lot better-and so did we.
Les enfants du siècle (1999)
Read Sand's works instead
I'm a great admirer of George Sand's works, so I was curious about this film, and have been ever since I heard that it came out in France in 1999. I finally got a chance to see it two weeks ago in New York. Diane Kurys' film is well-acted and beautifully shot. Unfortunately, viewers won't be much enlightened about Sand or Musset as writers by watching it. Nor is it a convincing love story. Both of these faults are mostly due to a mediocre script.
The basic outline of the facts of Sand's relationship with Musset are there, but any sense of *why* they had such a fatal obsession with each other is lacking. Lots of inane dialogue about love isn't enough! The two are barely together before they're fighting, and Musset is such an unpleasant, selfish, manipulative and immature fellow (a characterization that's apparently pretty true to the facts) that Sand's devotion to him is hard to fathom. Surprisingly, from a filmmaker with a feminist slant, you learn very little about Sand's beliefs as a woman or an artist. She seems like a sane person, though, and a hard-working writer (and that is historically accurate), but there's no depth, in spite of all that the lovely, talented Juliet Binoche can do. The character as written simply isn't interesting, and that's sad, because the real life George Sand was a fascinating woman.
The film's portrait of the Romantic era and its writers isn't much better. Yes, I suppose with all the bad behavior and opium-gulping, Musset and some others were like the childish, spoiled rock stars of today (which may have been the filmmaker's point), but there's no sense of what their work was like. When Sand and Musset talk about their writing and its meaning, they sound like rank amateurs. The one thing you learn about Sand's novel *Lelia* from the film is that it was about female frigidity and how few men are capable of arousing a woman. (Naturally, Musset soon cures Sand of her "frigidity." Hoo-boy). In reality, *Lelia* is a complex attempt to address many philosophical issues of the age and a struggle to find the meaning of existence, with or without God, but that doesn't make good cinema, I guess. It's easier to suppose that women are always going to write about sex, rather than to admit that they have any ideas of their own.
If you want real insight, you'd be far better off reading Sand's works (something like her most magnificent short story, "The Marquise," for starters). Or how about calling a moratorium on films about Sand's love life and actually bringing one of her works to the screen? That would be a real tribute.
American Beauty (1999)
A real beauty
This is by far the most Oscar-worthy film I've seen this year. The fact that a movie could suggest that the problem with America today is a profoundly spiritual one is something worth celebrating. So is a movie that forgets car chases and violent explosions and really explores the small details of our everyday lives.
I found the movie so riveting that I forgot to even eat my popcorn! It was a beautiful fusion of an intelligent script, fine cinematography, and (mostly) wonderful acting. Kevin Spacey's performance was a marvel: in the most economical way, just with his mouth and eyes, he conveys rage, sarcasm, despair, sneaky triumph, and yes, even tenderness. The change in his posture from slumpy to buffed was wonderful. The young actors were also brilliant, particularly Wes Bentley, who is so incendiary you just know that he has a huge career in front of him ("Yeah, keep after me, Dad"). The only wrong note in the acting, I thought, was struck by Annette Benning: she seemed to be overacting (except for the moments when she was drunk and was at her softest). I know her character was tightly wound, but it could have been portrayed more subtly.
I thought the script had a few flaws, too. The story was strong enough that it almost didn't need the suggestion of murder and the "whodunnit' hook. There were a few contrivances that were almost sitcom-like (for instance, what Colonel Fitts thought he saw through the window vs. what was really going on). Perhaps that's because the writer, Alan Ball, apparently got his start in TV. But that didn't prevent the whole film, particularly the ending, from being deeply moving. I saw this film last fall, and am still thinking about it now, months later. That's great moviemaking!
Madame Bovary (2000)
some pretty botched-up casting
I've got to admit that Madame Bovary isn't my one of my favorite literary works, but I've watched several adaptations nonetheless. This was a fairly intelligent attempt at adaptation, with a pretty good script, but it was ruined for me by some casting misjudgments and a misguided decision to use nudity and explicit sex.
It takes some doing to make a woman as misguided and blinkered as Emma Bovary truly sympathetic (one of my major problems with the book), and though Frances O'Connor is a good actress, she often comes across seeming merely like a spoiled brat. She seems even more so because the decision was made to have her speak out loud so many things that Emma only thinks in the book. But I think the negative impression I got of this Emma is less due to her, perhaps, then to the other cast. I think it was a major mistake to cast somebody so obviously manly and sympathetic in the role of her husband as Hugh Bonneville (in the book Charles was really a dork) and such lightweights as Greg Wise (who looks stupefied most of the time) and -- well, I've forgotten what is name was -- as Leon. You definitely have to question her preference from them over Charles.
The various explicit nude sex scenes really add nothing, and often lead us in the wrong direction. Is it merely a difference in sexual technique that makes Emma unsatisified by her husband, but satisfied by Rodolphe? You can look at these scenes for hours and never find out. By the way, what is this about Emma apparently liking rough sex (her first time with Rodolphe, when he makes her bleed). Where was THAT in the book??! But most of all it was a mistake, I think, because Emma focuses as much on romance as on sex, and these scenes completely miss that.
I was mainly disappointed in this try at the book. Beautifully photographed, though.
One of my all-time favorite films
There are so many things to say about this film that I could never get them all in! Most of them have been said by other reviewers anyway.
I saw "Amadeus" in a theater when it first came out, applauded wildly when it won I don't know how many Academy Awards, and have enjoyed it any number of times on video since then. Peter Schaffer brilliantly adapted his play, which became even more dramatic and human onscreen. The story is moving and profound, and the performances wonderful. F. Murray Abraham was truly brilliant as the tormented mediocrity Salieri. So was Tom Hulce as the callow genius Mozart. Not too-often mentioned is Roy Dotrice as Papa Mozart; he was great, as was Jeffrey Jones in a slyly funny performance as the officious but empty-headed Emperor. I was delighted by the fact that the film avoided the stuffiness so often associated with period drama. I will even confess that I giggle just as insanely as Amadeus every time Salieri calls Mozart "The Creature"! The scene where Salieri takes dictation from Mozart and we see artistic creation happening must be one of the greatest ever put on screen. I hope everyone takes the opportunity to see this wonderful film on video.
OK, I do have some more serious stuff to say. As a budding screenwriter myself, I was impressed by the writer's attention to depth of character, and subtle, interlocking themes. As a student of cultural history, I was fascinated by how much history really came across onscreen. Not necessarily historical fact (I know that Salieri didn't murder Mozart, and most likely didn't try, and there were undoubtedly many other inaccuracies, due to the need for condensation). When I think history, I usually think of the history of ideas. And if you want to look at the historical development that took place from the idea of the artist dedicated to God, and the modern one of an artist as a tormented individual, striving for excellence on his own, you can see it in Salieri. And the film also made it clear how the coming revolutionary changes in 18th-19th Europe were to carry the artist from having to please a patron to having to make it in a democratic marketplace (well, until the founding of the NEA, anyway). Just compare this film to that odious monstrosity "Shakespeare in Love", which also, inconceivably, won a Best-Pictur Oscar! There, nothing goes beyond dull sitcom contrivance and cliches about the theater, and the conception of the characters is so thoroughly twentieth-century that no real historical ideas can possibly get though. Please, people, see "Amadeus" instead!
The End of the Affair (1999)
Another Hollywood script betrays a great book
My Fordham roommate and I went to see this because we both loved the book. I had read Neil Jordan's comments in an Entertainment Weekly article about how he had naturally toned down the religious element of the story because he thought modern audiences would be uncomfortable about it. . . still, I continued to hope against hope that Graham Greene's vision would come through. No such luck.
Once again, as in so many movies I've seen recently, the production aspects and acting were superb, but where the movie really fell down was the script, particularly the thought behind the script.
The book is a wonderful story not only about love and sexual passion, but also about faith and self-sacrifice. Sarah (the best character I've read in any of Greene's books) goes through a tremendously moving journey from seeking fulfilment in sexual passion, to finding that only love of God will really satisfy her. (Interestingly enough, the movie left out the fact that she had apparently had a number of affairs before Maurice). This was almost wholly discarded in the movie in favor of depictions of sexual passion that, exciting as they were (wow! bombs dropping and orgasm together!) didn't add up to much in the end.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The script's major flaw was not really trusting the story and the characters that Greene wrote. Now, in the book, Sarah actually does stick to her sacrifice and doesn't go back to Maurice -- but this is blunted in the story, with a great deal more of their affair added, that didn't go anywhere, and seemed to make the ending pointless. In fact, for much of the movie, the script seemed to be chasing its tail -- why play over the scene where the bomb fell twice over? It seems to me that the audience could have been trusted to remember the first one, and to understand and put two and two together when Maurice gets Sarah's diary. Why (at my count) four different mentions of the scene where Sarah finds Lance sleeping, instead of developing that relationship, as was so charmingly done in the book? And why so many sex scenes (forget it, I already know the answer to that). The repetitiousness left no room for development of the characters, especially Sarah and her journey, the theme or anything else. Well, Hollywood always has its reasons.
Nevertheless, I did like the performances. I had always thought that the Maurice of the book was a bit of a pill, so I was pleased that Ralph Fiennes was able to give him some romantic appeal without violating his essentially selfish character. Stephen Rea was excellent as the tormented husband. And the beautiful, radiant, heartbreaking Julianne Moore clearly understood Sarah so well -- why, oh why couldn't she have been allowed to do that character as written? It seems to me that people today don't need nearly as much to be told how great sex is (everyone knows that), as they do to learn about the One who is greatest of all . . .
visually stunning, but . . .
I've long been interested in seeing this film; the TV ads certainly looked great. I agree that "Elizabeth" is visually stunning, and contains perhaps the year's greatest female performance, by Cate Blanchett. But on the whole, it's an interesting political thriller, not history. The screenplay is almost incoherent at times. We also get a lot of lines "talking" about the conditions of England at the time, but very little "showing" what kind of country Elizabeth had to rule. There is almost no historical context, and of course, a lot of the events are sheer inventions for dramatic purposes. I think a lot more thought could have been put into the script. But, as all too often happens today, the writer seems preoccupied with "will it sell to an audience? It's history, after all. Hmm, better fill it with a lot of gore, sex scenes, campy humor, sexual references, etc." all at the expense of plot or understanding. I would rather have kept more of the Catholic-Protestant question (which actually drops out halfway through the picture) than all the foolishness about the Queen, er, Duke of Anjou.
From many of the other comments of the same kind here, I see that movie audiences are a lot smarter than Hollywood thinks.
Oh, one more thing, for what it's worth. I'm a medieval historian, and not completely versed in Tudor England by any means, but a friend who is a historian of Tudor times says that the decors in the film were not really accurate. Contrary to the way the film portrays it, the English court didn't live in the middle of vast, darkened cathedrals. There was a lot of comfortable, cheery, domestic space and architecture, for example, at Hampton Court.
Altogether, something of a disappointment.