Elizabeth: Golden Age

  • 2007-11-21
  • by Tim Ochser

OFF WITH HER HAIR: Cate Blanchett stars as Queen Elizabeth I in this embarrassingly overblown costume drama.

Director: Shekhar Kapur

I've seen more subtle Mexican soap operas than this embarrassingly overwrought and pompous costume drama. It was actually painful to watch in places, and I'm not talking about the torture scenes.
Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) is under pressure to get married and produce an heir to the throne. She receives suitors from all over Europe but isn't especially impressed by any of them. But then Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) comes along, having returned from a long voyage of discovery and in need of some royal cash to fund his adventures.

With all his exotic potatoes and tobacco, Raleigh is a real charmer and Liz falls head over heels for him. Why, she almost loses her head over him. But Raleigh is much more interested in one of Liz's attractive young handmaids. Do you see the drama brewing? Do you feel the historic tension?
To make matters worse, Liz's cousin Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton) is banged up in some castle in Scotland, and is secretly colluding with the evil Spanish Catholics to oust Liz and take over as Queen of England.
Yes, the Spanish are an evil lot, of dark beard and beady eye, in stark contrast to the hardworking and earnest English Protestants. And so the evil Spanish build an armada 's the greatest fleet of ships ever assembled 's to take England by force.

Liz can't think straight, meanwhile, because she's so smitten by that handsome rogue Raleigh and his tales of travel and adventure. When she finds out that he's gone and got her handmaiden knocked up she flies into a royal rage and almost has them both killed.
But Liz is a divine sort of figure deep down, a "great" queen as she is frequently told, and she soon rises above her emotional turmoil to lead England to an impossible, against-the-odds, we-shall-overcome victory.
The scene in which Liz, dressed in armor and astride her mighty steed, delivers a rousing battle speech to the troops is one of the most embarrassing things I have ever seen. I found the grizzly torture scenes where Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) brutally extracts confessions from Catholic sympathizers far easier on my stomach.

Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen and Geoffrey Rush are all extremely talented actors and try their best to bring dignity and depth to their roles but not even they can salvage "Elizabeth: Golden Age."
It's bold, it's beautiful, and it's total trash.

Opens in Estonia and Latvia Nov. 23 and in Lithuania Dec. 7.

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