Thursday, February 14, 2008


Let the costume do the acting

By Edward Copeland
I liked Cate Blanchett's performance in Elizabeth better than I liked the movie itself. I was somewhat surprised that she managed to snag an Oscar nomination for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, given the tepid reviews and box office. Now that I've seen it, while I think it might be more fun than its predecessor and Blanchett is fine, it's still more a case of great costume design and art direction than it is great filmmaking.

One thing that I think hurts Shekhar Kapur's film is the bountiful number of projects about Elizabeth I over the past decade or so, especially the recent HBO miniseries Elizabeth I with the great Helen Mirren.

Kapur's film is campier than his first one, but there really isn't a lot in the way of characterization to offer his cast, be it Clive Owen as Walter Raleigh or Blanchett herself who, quite literally, often blends into the background. She pulls off seeming like an older version of the woman she played so well in 1998, but the entire film ends up being of limited effect.

Blanchett probably deserved the Oscar nomination more than Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, but I still think there were other, better choices out there.

As eye candy, Elizabeth: The Golden Age has its moments, but as a film, it's a nonentity.

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Another thing that I feel hurt the film, that hurt the original and Four Feathers, too, in fact, is Shekhar Kapur's idiosyncartic, and, some might say, self-indulgent, directorial flair, which calls needless attention to itself, and overshadows everything on screen (apart from, as you say, the luscious costume design). I find it very hard to get lost in his films (well, the three that I have seen), and end up scrutinising aspects that I might have otherwise overlooked, or taken for granted.

And, as you say, Elizabethan biographies are a dime a dozen, these days. During his team's historic visit to China in the 1970's, West Brom midfielder John Trewick was asked what he thought of the Great Wall. “You've seen one wall,” he jested, “you've seen them all." My feelings regarding Elizabethan drama are similar.

(Though not Elizabethan revenge dramas, which I can have for breakfast, lunch AND dinner)
For me, the 9-hour Emmy-winning Glenda Jackson miniseries from 1971is still the be-all and end-all as far as Elizabeth treatments are concerned. The Mirren version seemed like a truncated rip-off, and the Kapur films are overwrought camp with crappy history.

I enjoyed Blanchett for the most part, because she seemed to get into the spirit of the thing and ham it up when necessary (it's not as though you can play a line like "My bitches wear my collars!" straight). But I agree that there were probably better options out there for Best Actress nominations.
I must agree that the 6 part Elizabeth R with Glenda Jackson is still the best film version on the life of Queen Elizabeth I. And no one has ever come close to the great performance by Jackson. Glenda Jackson is one of the great actresses of the 20th century but she seems almost forgotten today. Perhaps Mr. Copeland could write a retrospective on her career.
I sort of had the suspicion watching the second Elizabeth film that Blanchett was imitating Jackson a lot of the time - and I agree with you that no other actress has come close to doing what Jackson did with the part.

As to her being forgotten...Glenda Jackson gave up acting in the early 90s to pursue a career in politics. She is now an elected member of Parliament representing the Labour Party.
Absolutely. Jackson is still very much in the limelight in the UK, albeit for her politics now.
the same thing happened with sean penn in "i am sam".. great performance but not a great movie..
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