I am not a historian, let alone an expert on the Tudor era, but I do flatter myself that I know a little bit more about history than the average American (which, sadly, is not that difficult because very few people here understand the value of history. But that’s a whole nother topic.). Having said that, nothing annoys me more than a movie that pretends to be historical, but is riddled with inaccuracies (*cough* Ever After *cough*) or has added made-up events because it makes a better story. If the original story isn’t interesting enough, why are you making a movie about it at all?
So what’s the story? Elizabeth tries to find her place as queen amid the danger and intrigue of the Tudor court.
The good: The costumes were gorgeous. I felt like they did a good job of showing the shifting of the fashions over time. The makeup was also well done. The makeup artists did an excellent job of making Cate Blanchett age just a few years, making her look older, but still young. They also avoided the problem that plagues so many historical movies; the actors did not look like 20th century people dressed in costume. I’m not sure what they did differently from some of the other movies of 1998, but somehow it worked.
The bad: The first time there is a shot looking down into a lofty stone hall from above, it’s really awesome. By the twentieth time, I feel like the director and/or cinematographer is saying, “Look at these cool shots we can do! Aren’t we awesome?” I was also annoyed by the martyr scene in the beginning. I felt like it was only included so that it could foreshadow the ending, which felt really heavy handed.
I didn’t much care for the production design, either. It has always seemed to me that this time was rather alive and noisy and messy, but everything seemed to be so…sterile. Too perfectly posed, maybe. It just made me feel more disconnected from the movie, rather than drawn in.
The ugly: The movie starts off with a definite date: 1554. And that is the last date we see in the movie. Although Elizabeth looks subtly older as the movie goes on, the viewer is left with no idea how much time has passed. Is it a matter of months or years? Considering that specific places are labeled, this lack of dates is disconcerting. Of course, since so many things in the movie didn’t happen anyway (a poisoned dress?), I guess they couldn’t have done dates. It annoyed the crap out of me, though.
Oscar Wins: Best makeup
Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best actress in a leading role; best cinematography; best costume design; best art direction-set direction; best music, original dramatic score.
(Random thought inspired by this movie: If Elizabeth had married the Duke of Anjou, her mother-in-law would have been Catherine de Medici. This is the only circumstance in which I can accept the poisoned dress as a possibility, because Catherine de Medici was CRAZY! I would totally watch the alternate history movie of this story if it existed.)