Friday, 26 October 2007

Panning Elizabeth

The YD and I went to see Elizabeth, the Golden Age, this afternoon. I had read three reviews on the film, one of which was a rave and two were less than enthusiastic. After seeing the film, we are also less than enthusiastic. 'It's so disjointed,' muttered the YD as we left.

Indeed. In trying to hit on all the highlights of the middle years of ERI, the movie has made itself into a series of flashy episodes with no central thread. And the scriptwriters took some really weird liberties with history. (JG says that I know far too much about Elizabethan history and that someone who didn't might not be so underwhelmed.) But! Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh have become one person, flipping cloaks, exhibiting tobacco at court, committing piracy on the high seas and, finally, personally running a fire ship into the Armada, a feat which neither of them performed. I'll forgive them the Armada bit, although why a white horse got equal time and Sir Whatsis had to swim underwater for a long way in his boots, coat and stuffed puffy pants is beyond me.
They haven't aged Blanchett enough either. No one would want her to be less gorgeous, but she was 25 in 1558 and the Armada is shown as arriving in 1585. That's 28 years. 25 + 28 = 53. She should not be discussing with Walsingham the fact that the court physicians can swear that she is still able to bear children. Or she's lying. The real Elizabeth did that a lot. But the poor movie goer is confused.

I could go on, but I am probably boring the Americans to tears. (You should hear me about liberties taken with TLOTR!) In its favour, the film has gorgeous costumes, great special effects, amazing lighting and a wonderful performance from Blanchett. Even with nothing to work with, the woman is amazing. But why they had to bowdlerize her speech to the army at the time of the Armada is beyond me. As is why they chose to show a six year old Isabella of Spain a lot. Mary Queen of Scots is suitably hateful except for the Scottish accent. I can't believe they did that! Her first language was French and she didn't speak much Scots at all, as far as I know. (I am going on. Sorry!)

The YD was a bit put off by the music, also. Too much sound and fury in all the exciting moments. (Torture scenes, Mary's beheading, the storm that did for the Armada, etc.) The YD mentioned that the Tudors are all over the place right now, and she's right. The mini series running on Henry VIII is giving me even more historical heartburn. I'm driving my husband crazy with my whines about historical accuracy. Elizabeth - The Golden Age is worth going to see, though, if you like historical drama. Buy some popcorn and some earplugs and suspend disbelief.


  1. hmmm... my husband and I want to see this, but I am sure he will be all upset about all the historical inaccuracies... he always is!

  2. Oh, how disappointing. I was really looking forward to it too. I've heard bad stuff (excepting Cate's acting). Still, I might check it out on DVD

  3. NO!

    NO NO!

    Well okay glad you screened it for me. I get SO AGGRAVATED in historically inaccurate movies and have been known to sniff, "AS IF!" extremely disdainfully, then be moved to defensive explanation when shushed.

    How disappointing.

    Using My Words

  4. Darn! I had read that Cate was amazing as Elizabeth and was thinking I'd actually try to see the movie in the theatre (a remarkable achievement for me, as I manage that about once a year). Now I'm not so sure. Historical inaccuracies make me nuts too, and I know a great deal about the period.

    Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

  5. don't get me started on historical accuracy! my husband is an american historian and my work used to be historical archeology that whole mixing of sir francis drake and raleigh chaps my hide!

  6. I feel guilty, now. It is a very beautiful movie and Cate is believable and fascinating. I do better with both historical movies and those made from my favourite books if I am forewarned. When I'm not, I get vindictive. I should have known this movie might be problematic when I read a reviewer who stated happily that Elizabeth I succeeded James I.

    I'm so very glad that I have fellow history lovers who sympathize with me on this. The husband tends to ask questions like "Who is Walsingham?", and then shush me when my teeth start to grind.

  7. It is nice to not be alone in this. My husband does not appreciate comments like, "They would never have eaten that then. They thought raw veggies were poisonous," or "He was way older than that guy!" or some other bit of trivia. He responds by telling me it doesn't matter, as I'm the only one who'd ever notice such a small detail. But I'm not!

    Of course, he still won't care.

  8. One of my students is doing a review of this movie, and she's saying exactly the same thing as you, only with the opposite emphasis. As far as she's concerned, this is not a movie about history - it's a chick flick, and it works on that level. She's going to back it up with descriptions of the atmosphere and cinematography and analysis of Cate Blanchett's performance.

    I haven't seen it - I loved the first film, and the lukewarm reviews have scared me off of the sequel.

  9. I'm glad you reviewed this because the movie would have driven me crazy too. Despite being an American, I actually know far too much about Elizabethan history as well. Some of the inaccuracies in the first movie drove me crazy. And they drove my hubby crazy b/c I had to point them out during the movie.