(3/5) – historical drama
In Elizabeth (1998), Cate Blanchett plays Elizabeth the 1st, daughter of Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth gains the thrown after her half sister Mary dies. From the moment of her coronation, she is challenged on all fronts. Elizabeth meets the challenges, taking on all comers from the House of Lords, to Mary Queen of Scots and the Pope. She is in love with Lord Robert (Joseph Fiennes) but is pressured to marry elsewhere in order to ally England with powerful nations in its time of weakness.
Cate Blanchett is an undeniably terrific actress. My favourite Cate Blanchett performance was her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Aviator (2004). She was very good in this movie as well. Geoffrey Rush (excellent in Shine (1996) and Shakespeare in Love (1998)) plays Elizabeth’s most loyal subject, Sir Francis Walsingham. I was particularly impressed by the unknown, to me, Christopher Eccleston who played the Duke of Norfolk, whose chief concern was, like her father before her, Elizabeth’s turning away from the Catholic Church.
Joseph Fiennes was just OK in this movie. He was much more impressive in Shakespeare in Love (1998) which came out that same year. Richard Attenborough (director of one of the wonderful Gandhi (1982)) also played a somewhat forgettable counsellor to the Queen.
I was surprised to see Daniel Craig show up in a small role in this movie. Ironically, in this movie he played Elizabeth’s would-be assassin, while his new James Bond character is devoted to protecting Queen and country. And he is gruesomely tortured in both parts! Sir John Gielgud also shows up in a cameo performance as the Pope.
Unfortunately for me, the movie was less than the sum of its parts. It got better as it went on. But it was too long and plodding for my tastes with too much attention spent on the pomp and circumstance of the era. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Cate Blanchett, but it lost out in almost every category (except Makeup) to the much better Shakespeare in Love (1998) which also starred Joseph Fiennes and Geoffrey Rush.
If you are a period-piece, costume-loving, movie-goer, you’ll enjoy this more than my score would indicate. It’s also interesting for its history, for Cate Blanchett’s terrific performance and as Part 1 to its sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).