Elizabeth: User Comments
March 24, 1999
I am living proof that ignorance is bliss! Being a woman sorely lacking in higher education, and not much of a history buff to boot, I greatly enjoyed Elizabeth. I didn't miss all the things in your review that you said could have improved it, because I didn't know any better.
I went into Elizabeth cold, with only one expectation--to see the astounding performance by Cate Blanchett that everyone was raving about. I was not disappointed. Her journey from wistful, ethereal seductress, to cold, self-empowered ruler, and finally to bizarre idol was a joy to watch. I would pay to see it again, just to watch Blanchett work her magic.
I am one of the few women in America who does not buy Joseph Fiennes as a romantic leading man. Sure, he's cute, but in a stray puppy kind of way. To me, he lacks the magnetism and power of a true leading man. I can't imagine that Elizabeth would refuse to marry simply because of him. I got the idea that she wanted to be the one true ruler of England. She was not content to be merely a footnote in the history books as the mother of some a great king. She was the monarch, and she intended to rule. That is what the movie conveyed to me.
[**WARNING: Spoilers**] I found all the palace intrigue very entertaining. Honestly, I would have preferred to see Eccelston and Fiennes switch roles. Fiennes has a weaselly quality that would be perfect for a traitor, and Eccelston has the physical presense of an awesome leading man. I admit that I was very confused about the role of the Spanish embassador, and I really could have done without that French wierdo Elizabeth almost married.
Geoffrey Rush's character really fascinated me. He was like a midieval CIA spook. At first, I didn't really trust him--imagine having him on the other guy's side! I liked the way he was just hanging back in the shadows. It gave him an eerie quality that I found very attractive. To me, in the film, he resembles a soulmate to Elizabeth more than any other man. [**End of Spoilers**]
Personally, I liked the look of the film. I thought the lighting was perfect. I could actually see the darkness beyond the torches in the palace, making it seem even that more sinister and treacherous. When contrasted with the beautiful natural light in the outdoor scenes, the dark interiors start to take on a life of their own, as though the palace itself imposes an inherent danger. I actually have an irrational fear of the dark, so the impact on me was primal.
There was some interesting cinematography and editing that actually seemed out of place in the film as a whole. The "outtakes" of Elizabeth practicing her speech were jarringly modern, though on its own, I like that sequence very much. And that shot of the priest-assassin striding purposefully down the corridor like some mindless angel of death--well, that plain looked cool!
Overall, I would tend to give it a little higher rating than you did, simply because I saw it purely as a piece of drama. It would still lose a few points for its convoluted plot, but in general, I found it to be a fantastic piece of entertainment.-- JenP.S. If you happen to know... What is the significance of the dwarves? I'm assuming that there was some nobility with dwarfism in the family, seeing as how those women were well-dressed ladies-in-waiting. Do you have any historical knowledge about this? It's nagging at me.
Thanks for commenting! Yes, I realize I was a bit hard on Elizabeth in my review, but I did enjoy it and ultimately I gave it a B-, which is a good grade on my scale. It means that I found many parts of the film quite compelling, but that it was uneven overall.
I thought that the lighting was good, too. My comment was merely that the dark visuals adds to the confusion generated by the plot and the many characters. Thematically, the composition suits the film perfectly. Plus, it's realistic--obviously there was no electric lighting back then. Some of the shots were truly spectacular, like the one of the priest-assassin that you mention. The shot that stuck with me was the one of Elizabeth at the end of movie, which I describe in my review.
I didn't really mind the historical inaccuracies. A movie based on historical fact will usually take a few liberties in order to tell a more coherent and dramatic story. What disappointed me was that that they didn't develop Elizabeth's character more. We see her transformation, but we don't really understand it as well as we could. There were hints of the complexities in her character and representations of motivations, but there was no real exploration. The movie was quite short (under two hours I believe) and a little extra time would have served to clarify the plot and flesh out the characters--not to take anything away from Cate Blanchett's fantastic performance. It just bothers me when a movie fails to live up to its potential.
By the way, the physical description of Lord Dudley in my biography of Elizabeth says that he was "dark," almost "like a Gypsy," and that he had very slim legs. Because Joseph Fiennes fit that description perfectly, and because he's a pretty good actor, I thought he was well cast, though I agree that Eccelston had more screen presence here.
I don't know the significance of the dwarves, unfortunately. However, physical deformities were common back then among noble families, which were very inbred.
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