This film details the ascension to the throne and the early reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, as played by Cate Blanchett. The main focus is the endless attempts by her council to marry her off, the Catholic hatred of her and her romance with Lord Robert Dudley.Written by
It's painful to watch this movie, because the overpowering beauty of the locations, the cinematography, and the cast (mainly Cate Blanchett) is used in the service of an almost unbelievably shallow, smug, and cynical reading of English history.
Other reviewers have already done a superb job of pointing out the factual inaccuracies of the film's portrayal of Elizabeth and her advisors. What I'd like to comment on is the overriding theme. This is not a feminist movie. This is a pseudo-feminist movie. In order to make Elizabeth strong, the men have to be presented as weak, duplicitous, or stupid -- or sometimes all three at once! Cynically, the film makers seem to assume that the only way to make Elizabeth look strong is to surround her with weak, morally repellent men. Or perhaps they think that the mere presence of a strong woman automatically emasculates men.
In actual fact, of course, the remarkable thing about Elizabeth's reign is that she brought out the best in the men who served her. She was in fact an inspiring figure. None of this comes through in the movie. Weak men fail her, and strong men are simply destroyed by her. Whose fantasy is this, anyway?
Related to this is the problem of patriotism. Elizabeth's ruthlessness and determination are presented cynically in the film as a matter of strict self-preservation. In actual fact, Elizabeth was beloved by her people precisely because she loved England much more than her own security or safety. Moreover, her ability to take risks and defy France and Spain stemmed from her intuitive knowledge of the strength of the English people. She trusted them, and they trusted her. None of that comes across here. To put it another way, Elizabeth in real life was a master politician who enjoyed interacting with her subjects and was always able to communicate with them. But in this movie there is not one single crowd scene, not one single time when Elizabeth seems interested in, let alone guided by, the hopes and fears of the English common people.
This movie assumes that to a modern audience, "patriotism" is a dirty word. As a result it entirely misses the point of Elizabeth's life, and fails to understand either her motivations or the underpinnings of her success. Cynicism without insight, spectacle without grandeur, passion without emotion . . . this is the most shallow masterpiece ever made.
Cate Blanchett deserved better, and so did Elizabeth.
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