Elizabeth: The Golden Age Review
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Nine years after earning an Oscar nod for her performance as a young Queen Elizabeth I (eventually losing to Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love), Cate Blanchett once again joins with director Shekhar Kapur to continue the story of the Virgin Queen.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age focuses on the protestant queen’s struggle with Catholic Spain, which was ruled by King Philip II (Jordi Mollà). Determined to overthrow Elizabeth, Philip’s attention turns to the queen’s Catholic cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), who’s the next in line for the throne.

While Elizabeth tries to hold on to her crown, she also feels the pressure to make a politically favorable match with an important man from another country. But instead of letting go of her feelings and arranging a match for the sake of her country, she finds herself attracted to rugged explorer and alleged pirate Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), who comes to her to ask for help in settling a colony in the New World. But the queen isn’t the only woman who’s noticed Raleigh—and though Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish) knows how the queen feels, she can’t stay away from him, either.

Once again, Blanchett gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the Virgin Queen. In fact, the film comes to life when she’s on-screen—and it feels like it’s missing something whenever she’s not. The problem is that the rest of the cast (Clive Owen excepted) isn’t nearly as captivating—or as commanding—as Blanchett is. While the Spaniards are clearly supposed to be the villains, they’re portrayed as such horribly shady bad guys that they almost come off as cartoonish. King Philip looks and acts like a demented, bow-legged magpie (picture Heckyl and Jekyll with a crown and an all-powerful armada). And the British bad guys aren’t much better. There’s just nothing subtle about them.

At the same time, though, the political schemes and strategies, along with the resulting plot twists, make the film intriguing. Unfortunately, too much of the story is focused on the love triangle involving Raleigh, Bess, and Elizabeth. Though it’s interesting for a while—and it shows the queen’s humanity, as well as the sacrifices she’s forced to make for her country—there’s just too much of it. Eventually, it feels less like an important part of the story and more like a sensational and somewhat irritating distraction from the real story. Although I adore Clive Owen—and I once again found him captivating on-screen—I could have done with a little less of him this time around.

At the times when the story gets a bit tedious, though, at least there’s plenty to look at. The sets are stunning and the costumes are spectacular. And though it’s far from a flawless film, Blanchett’s regal performance still makes it worth checking out.

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