Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 1/16/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.


When Elizabeth: The Golden Age was released last year, Heather and I were interested to see it, but held back by the fact that we hadn’t seen director Shekhar Kapur’s first Elizabeth film. After a few unsuccessful attempts to rent it from our local video store, we gave up, until we came across the movie on TV a couple months ago. We recorded it, and finally sat down to watch it last week. The movie was interesting, intricate, and beautiful to look at, but at the end of the day I didn’t find myself a huge fan.

Cate Blanchett (Oscar-nominated for the role) stars in the title role as England’s first protestant queen. The film follows her rise to power following the death of her Catholic half-sister, Mary (Kathy Burke) and her development from a naïve young girl into the strong and assertive ruler that history remembers. With a look at her life both personal and political (and the frequent intersection of the two), the movie functions as a stylized and engaging biopic.

On a technical level, there is little to criticize here. The cast is tremendous, from Joseph Fiennes’ portrayal of Elizabeth’s lover and friend to Richard Attenbourogh’s fatherly adviser to Geoffrey Rush’s more assertive and less conscience-bound right hand man. Other familiar faces show up as well, including Daniel Craig, who swaps his tuxedo and pistol for a priest’s robes. The art design department was well deserving of their Oscar noms, with the costumes, art direction, cinematography, and makeup all lending themselves to an incredibly immersive experience. The story material, I believe, falters a bit. I can’t say it’s not interesting, and for today’s politically-driven church it could even function as a cautionary tale against too much wedding of church and state. However, I felt like the human element was missing far too often. The movie focuses just as much on Elizabeth the woman as Elizabeth the queen, but I found it to be nowhere near as interesting when it delved into the former. We’re seeing the choices that made her the woman, and thus the leader, that she was, but I had trouble many times feeling and understanding why she made those choices. For me, a second pass at the script could have solved a lot of the movie’s problems. As it stands, it’s merely okay. I wouldn’t mind seeing the sequel, but I won’t be rushing out to rent a copy anytime soon. Historical buffs or those who are interested in the art direction side of the movie industry will find much to enjoy here, but at day’s end, this was a film that I simply admired much more than I really liked. - **1/2 (out of 4)

Elizabeth is rated R for violence and sexuality

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