Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen
Slathered with high-falutin’ talk and dripping with shaky history, “Elizabeth: The Golden Years” sails into Staunton, drops anchor at the Visulite, and tells the glorious tale of England as only those Brits can tell it.
It’s a swell movie, even if it is a sequel to 1998’s Oscar-winning (for Best Makeup) entry from the same director (Shekhar Kapur) and with the same glowing star (Cate Blanchett) filling the screen with derring-do and (seeing that she was known as the Virgin Queen) derring-don’t.
Ah! Historical epics!
Don’t you just love to sit back and let all this courtly opulence flow over you, watching Cate hiss and fuss about with her head henchman (Gregory Rush). And watching it is practically guilt-free, because you know somewhere along the line you’re gonna get a painless history lesson (usually about how darned noble the English are).
But this one is the kind they used to make, where the script plays fast and loose with what really happened and never lets fact get in the way of a good story.
The film picks up in the year fifteen-something-or-other, and the new kid on the block (not the chopping block) is Sir Walter Raleigh himself, played by Clive Owen, who is one sexy buckaroo. Probably the coolest thing in the movie is their take on the famous scene where Sir Walter spreads his cloak over a puddle so Lizzie won’t get mud all over her Minolo Blahniks. Of course, the incident probably never happened, but who cares? It’s a movie!
Natch, the whole thing is just a run-up to all that unpleasant business with the Spanish Armada, with lots of running around and teeth gnashing and cheering soldiers and noble speeches.
The sea battle, I thought, could have been a tad more spectacular, though there are some nice touches with stallions on the galleons and such. And perhaps those of us who skipped World History class that day might appreciate a more detailed explanation of The Big Battle and How the Good Guys Won.
The set piece in the movie is, of course, Cate Blanchett. She appears in about 50 different wigs, and if this film doesn’t get at least an Oscar nom for costume design, I’ll eat my shorts.(Not really.)
Cate is far from being a traditional beauty, and that actually helps in her interpretation of Queen Liz.
(I preferred Helen Mirren myself, but then, I usually cheer for older actors simply because they have enough to deal with given Hollywood’s pash for youth.)
In case you ignored the critics (as I usually do) on this one, they came down on it like a herd of salivating hounds, bemoaning the historical inaccuracies, the scenery chewing, the excessive pageantry and recessive dances, along with probably too much Holy Cow dialogue. Frankly, I think those all-too-serious Critiques du Cinema just don’t know how to relax and enjoy some sincere puffery.
I mean, “Elizabeth The Golden Years” fills all the requirements: a touching beheading, a dungeon full of medieval torture instruments, an attempted assassination, Royal Angst to the max, along with plenty of court politics and naughty assignations.
Whadda ya want, egg in yer beer?
Meanwhile, Back at the Dixie: “Feast of Love,” recently reviewed in this column, is a film for grownups that I strongly recommend (unless you’re allergic to relationships) while it’s still at the downtown Dixie in Staunton.
Also playing there is “3:10 to Yuma,” a glorious dust-up between Russell Crowe and Christian Bale that’ll get your boots a-jumpin’ if you (like any sane human) are a fan of dangerous, grumpy cowboys who neither shave nor bathe with any great enthusiasm or frequency.
Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.