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Elizabeth (1998): Fool for a Day, Queen for a Lifetime

Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, 1998)

[originally posted 22Oct2000]

A weirdly-eyeless Cate Blanchett dominates the DVD cover, a smaller version of the film poster.

Was Elizabeth undead, or did she just have no pupils?
photo credit: Amazon

I half-figured I wasn’t going to get what everyone else saw in this film when my reaction to the first scene was “okay, I like burning bodies as much as the next guy, but what did that have to do with the story?” And variations on that theme never really left me as the story unfolded. I wondered while picking this up how even a fraction of the tale of Elizabeth’s rise to power could be depicted in two hours; for some reason I’d thought this movie was almost twice that long. And perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention, or perhaps this film requires repeated viewings to really grasp its brilliance. Or, maybe, it’s a chick flick. (Check the ratings breakdown at Suddenly I don’t feel nearly as bad about not liking this as much as everyone else seemed to.)

It’s certainly not a bad film, though I think a good deal of the supporting cast’s roles were written to be overplayed, which is the same problem I have with many period dramas. It just seems as if it’s there as a kind of Cliffs Notes version of Elizabeth’s rise to power. Maybe I’m wrong in this, but given the many, many accolades received by the film, I expected something more– piercing, original insight into Elizabeth’s character, a new take on her inner circle of advisors, a revelation that she actually wasn’t a virgin, something. Instead, it was your basic history book, abbreviated. ** ½



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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