Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Pimp Named Elizabeth

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Release: October 12, 2007
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 54 minutes

Second Run Seats ($$)

Just shy of a decade ago, I remember sitting at home being captivated by the talent of then unknown actress Cate Blanchett in a little film called “Elizabeth.” Two dozen films later (most of which I’ve seen), Blanchett revisits the role that helped put her in the public eye. In this sequel, director Shekhar Kapur returns to continue the story of Elizabeth I during the time when Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, plotted to overthrow her. Mary is under guard in a Scottish prison, awaiting the perfect moment to knock her cousin from the throne she believes is rightfully hers. Meanwhile, King Philip II of Spain threatens to siege a Holy War against England and their bastard queen. Even within her own court, Elizabeth’s title of the Virgin Queen is becoming a slippery subject, especially once Sir Walter Raleigh becomes a regular adornment of the queen. The lady had a lot to contend with.

Director Kapur enlisted Geoffrey Rush to once again portray the Queen’s advisor, Sir Francis Walsingham. Blanchett and Rush are joined by Jordi Mollà (Blow), Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown) and Clive Owen (Gosford Park), who portray Philip, Mary Stuart and Raleigh, respectively. Supporting actors like Abbie Cornish and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) just add emotion and intricacy to life in the aura of Elizabeth. Even the immense sets and locations enhance the impressiveness of the period.

The coup de grâce of the film has to be the elaborate costumes. Blanchett dons dresses made with multiple bolts of richly colored and embroidered cloth topped off with structured corsets and intricately designed lace collars. Every dress is accented by dazzling jewelry and the ensemble is completed by any one of numerous highly crafted, fiery-red wigs. Audiences could spend minutes just soaking up the details of her attire. Luckily, Blanchett exudes an intensity that will keep them riveted to her expressions and dialogue. Seriously, at this point Blanchett, or Rush for that matter, could lay comatose in a film and they’d achieve an award-winning performance. Both actors drive the humor, warmth, disdain, and utterly depressing loneliness of the Queen’s court and position.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age” has elements to be appreciated and that is its failing. The director seemingly captured each scene as a moment in time, almost as if the film were a collection of still images. A whispered conversation is crafted with such melodrama and poise that it seems to be a portrait hanging in a museum. Like a museum crawl, audiences will find themselves drained and dazed by the barrage of imagery. The pretty pictures and elegantly captured emotion somehow lack anything compelling or riveting.

Dirty Undies
I must say, you have to be one determined person to get into the knickers of a lady of the royal court. All those ribbons, fasteners, wigs, and wraps make me think the commoners are far easier to come by, if you know what I mean. Clive Owen simply exudes sex with every crooked smile and twinkle of eye but it’s Blanchett that bares booty. Despite the violent era, all violence is off-screen with tortured souls and traitorous villains sporting bloodied wounds. The director even cops out by using blood-red garments to artistically convey the impending severity of what would be totally cool violence.

The Money Shots
Blanchett portrays Elizabeth as a seemingly light-hearted friend of the people and ambassador of good will to her neighbors. But like a true cock of the walk, let one of her subjects cross the line and she will beratingly snatch them back into their station. Her commanding demeanor, however, cannot carry this lethargic film. If you want a better understanding of just how ostentatious and tedious this film feels, just peruse the film’s official website and you’ll get a taste of what awaits.

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