The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Features  |  Reviews
Find a Movie
Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

Bogus Bess

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is leaden
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 10, 2007
1.5 1.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age | Directed by Shekhar Kapur | Written by Michael Hirst and William Nicholson | With Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Abbie Cornish, Jordi Mollà, and Samantha Morton | Universal | 114 Minutes
“History,” Winston Churchill told us, “is written by the victors.” But history is also written by Hollywood. If we’re lucky, Hollywood gets the essentials right, shapes the details in an entertaining way, and, aware that history is forever unknowable, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Michael Curtiz’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk winked at the Elizabethan age, and you could never accuse Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, and Flora Robson of excess gravity. Fifty-four years later, John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love comported itself in similar fashion, with Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, and Judi Dench (“She’s been plucked since I saw her last, and not by you . . . Takes a woman to know it”) all reveling in Tom Stoppard’s witty script. Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age — the follow-up to his 1998 Elizabeth (a/k/a Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen) — is the Polonius of Elizabethan films: earnest, sententious, interminable. It’s all summed up in the difference between Geoffrey Rush’s feckless Philip Henslowe in Shakespeare and his dutiful Sir Francis Walsingham in the two Elizabeth films. On Oscar night, Shakespeare took Best Film, Best Actress (Paltrow), and Best Supporting Actress (Dench); the first Elizabeth won for Best Make-Up.

The second Elizabeth (look for Elizabeth: The Age of Anxiety in 10 years or so) starts up in 1585. The Virgin Queen (Cate Blanchett) is still virgin, at least by reputation, but her advisers haven’t given up hope of an heir to the throne, even though she’s now passed 50. Meanwhile, English Catholics are again plotting to put Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton) on the throne, with the help of Inquisition-mad Spain, where Philip II (Jordi Mollà) is assembling his Armada, and we see the English traitors being hunted down and tortured and strung up (though not drawn and quartered).

Elizabeth, however, has been distracted by the appearance of young explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) at court. He woos her with sub-Stoppard aphorisms: “Do we discover the New World, or does the New World discover us?”; “The closer I come to death, the more I want to live”; “I have never known a woman like you”; “Why worry about tomorrow when today is all we have?” She replies in kind: “To tell you the truth, I’m very very tired of always being in control.” But it’s rosy-cheeked lady-in-waiting Elizabeth Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish) who loses control and goes to bed with Raleigh after he tells her, “We’re all human, Bess. We do what we can.” The queen’s distress is poignant — especially when we see, in a brief nude rear shot, what good shape she’s in — but far from realistic: whereas Owen is 43 and Blanchett 38, in 1585 Raleigh was 33 and Elizabeth 52, and in fact Raleigh and Throckmorton didn’t hook up till 1591.

Here, Throckmorton becomes pregnant and Raleigh goes to jail; then the Armada approaches and Raleigh is released. The Spanish, in the film’s ugliest moments, are portrayed as boorish religious obsessives. The Dies Irae–style soundtrack grows hysterical: we’re on the verge of a holy war. Elizabeth, armored and mounted astride a white charger, her long red hair flowing, announces, “I have resolved to live and die among you all!”, as if she were Henry V at Agincourt. Although the real Raleigh appears not to have taken part in the battle, this one declares, “We must break their formation — it’s our only chance!”, before steering a fireship into the Armada and then swimming to safety. Throckmorton gives birth and Elizabeth, resigned, blesses the child. But there’s no blessing this ponderous, overblown melodrama.

  • Smoking hot
    Cigarettes on the silver screen
  • America Blows
    Since George W. Bush took office, the United States has sunk to unprecedented lows in sports and pop-culture domination
  • Spring brakes
    Spring Arts Preview: Some diversions before the summer onslaught
  • More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Walter Raleigh , Celebrity News , Entertainment ,  More more >
  • Share:
  • RSS feed Rss
  • Email this article to a friend Email
  • Print this article Print

Today's Event Picks
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ADAM AND EVE  |  January 13, 2009
    It's boy-meets-girl at New York City Ballet
  •   TRULY TESS  |  December 29, 2008
    Hardy, for once, gets his due
  •   ARISE AND HAIL  |  December 16, 2008
    Revels goes to Thomas Hardy's Wessex
  •   NOT SO GREAT  |  December 02, 2008
    San Francisco's Nutcracker on PBS
  •   HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29  |  November 24, 2008
    Scores in nearly every department

 See all articles by: JEFFREY GANTZ

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group