Elizabeth: The Golden Age
The allure of the Virgin Queen continues. It’s 1585 and Queen Elizabeth I of England (Cate Blanchett) is being besieged by possible suitors, sedition and the Spanish superpower led by bow-legged arch Catholic fundamentalist King Philip II. Plus there’s the small liability of her second cousin Mary, Queen of Scots (Sam Morton). Then, one day, the English writer, poet, pirate and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) strides into her busy court with some potatoes and a wad of tobacco from the New World and the sexiest unconsummated affair in English royal history begins.
Indian-born filmmaker Shekhar Kapur’s follow-up to 1998’s Elizabeth again plays fast and free with historical fact to create a hokey soap opera-ish drama that should keep period drama detractors happy while still, just about, holding fort with analogists and history students (albeit ones with a very broad appreciation of creative license).
Elizabeth is presented, not as the menopausal 52-year-old she was in 1585, but as a foxy rationalist, trying to keep the bloodshed to a minimum in an age of vicious sectarianism, while Sir Walter Raleigh gets to bring down the entire Spanish armada, with only a little help from Sir Francis Drake (Raleigh actually stayed on dry land during the Armada War where he provided naval advice to his beloved Queen).
In short this isn’t just historical flapdoodle it’s total jazz. But as such it has the feeling of a high quality, Sunday night TV melodrama about it. Much of the film’s blood and thunder liveliness comes as a direct result of sheer relish Blanchett brings to her role and with excellent support from Owen and the up-and-coming Australian actress Abbie Cornish. The star of the sumptuous pantomime, however, is costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Finding Netherland, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) whose startling work makes this very easy on the eye – these frocks will leave you gobsmacked.
General release from Fri 2 Nov.