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Elizabeth (1998)

This has been reposted as part of the LAMB Acting School on Cate Blanchett.  Check out the LAMB to see the rest of the entries.

In the interest of truly understanding my dislike of this film let me allow you into my life for a bit.  I’m an English major but I’m also a HUGE history buff to the point where I probably have enough units to get a History degree.  My main focus has always been that crazy family, the Tudors.  I’ve devoured any and all things Tudor ever since 7th grade when I was the only one wrapped up in watching Anne of the Thousand Days during History class (and I do mean the only one as everyone in my class hated it).  With that I’ve read every book on almost every member of the Tudors out there and I’ve taken many a class on the subject, so I’m well-versed.  Not an expert, just extremely knowledgable…which makes it really difficult for me to watch movies on the subject!  No director ever seems to get everything right which is understandable, but some movies just get things completely wrong in the interest of titillation (The Other Boleyn Girl) or narrative technique (every other movie).  The two movies I felt got things as close to right as we’ll ever get is the aforementioned Anne of the Thousand Days and Masterpiece Theater’s amazing miniseries The Virgin Queen.

This brings us to director Shekhar Kapur and star Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.  I’ve avoided this movie like the plague because when my friends who love costume dramas recounted the details I could feel my blood boil at the inaccuracies.  I’ll try my damnedest to get through this review and judge it on the merits of the film itself…but even as a film it’s lacking.

Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) is crowned Queen amongst a swell of opposition from her male counterparts, many of who wish her to marry and give the reigns over to a man.  In the morass of political intrigue and the constant assassination attempts the only one who remains true to Elizabeth is her best friend/lover Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) who can’t understand why they can’t be together.

So let’s get out the “good” stuff about this movie before I lose my cool and discuss how this movie totally misses the mark in discussing Elizabeth the Queen and the person.  The costumes are spectacular, as to be expected from any movie depicting this time period and it’s even more appropriate considering it got nominated for a Best Costume Design award at the Oscars.  The film was also nominated for Best Picture, par for the course because the film is pure Oscar bait (although Shakespeare in Love ended up winning proving it was a good year to be Joseph Fiennes).

The problem I have is other than the fact the movie is boring, long-winded, and really is just a “Queen Elizabeth’s Greatest Hits” story, it doesn’t tell us anything about Elizabeth other than she was strong, independent, and slutty as all get-out.  I mean Elizabeth I is known as “The Virgin Queen” for a reason and yet within the first thirty minutes you see her actually having sex with Robert Dudley, as her ladies in waiting watch no less!  I mean, you really can’t have her start proclaiming she’s a virgin when you’ve seen her have sex, unless we’re going to be believe in the whole “re-virginating” thing…oh wait that happens at the end of this fucking movie when she cuts her hair off and says “I’m a virgin!”  No you’re not, we’ve seen you have sex!  Maybe if we didn’t have that pointless scene it would make that element more dramatic, but it just makes her look like a damn liar!

On top of that, basic elements of the Tudor story and Elizabeth’s life are changed or omitted for no reason.  Elizabeth is being interrogated at one point and the interrogators discuss how Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn was killed for her views of Catholicism.  Anyone who has seen The Tudors knows Anne Boleyn wasn’t killed for her religious views but died based on trumped-up charges by Henry VIII to obtain a divorce!  I mean this is basic stuff here that has no reason to be changed so why change it?  Other things like Dudley’s marriage that Elizabeth has no idea has taken place (I have no idea what marriage we’re talking about either because his first marriage, Elizabeth was present, and his second to Elizabeth’s lady in waiting isn’t mentioned because said lady actually dies from a poisoned fucking dress!).

Whew…rant over.  As you can see I didn’t enjoy this movie but costume drama people will for sure.  Blanchette is good, she’s appropriately cold and stoic for the majority of the film and Fiennes is….pining I guess.  Just go rent the PBS/Masterpiece Theater version.  I swear it’s better than this classy mess.

Grade: D

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

7 thoughts on “Elizabeth (1998) Leave a comment

    • I really need to do a post on Anne…it’s an AMAZING movie and it makes me sad most history classes don’t cover the Tudor England period anymore. Thanks for reading!!


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