Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Cate Blanchett received her fifth Oscar nomination for reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. At the time, people were stunned and pissed that Cate stole the spot of Angelina Jolie whose performance was hailed by critics and audiences all over the world. However, Cate managed to pull off the double nomination. Obviously, she had absolutely no chance of winning Best Actress and I don't think she wanted to win that badly (just remember her genuinely thrilled face when Marion won). Nevertheless, she remained to be one of the least liked nominees this category has ever known (though I feel that the bad memory's gradually gonna fade in people's memory). 

While Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an entertaining movie, I felt it was a completely useless effort. First of all, to me, the first Elizabeth is a real classic and it's the main reason I fell for the genre. It had everything: great drama, flawless acting, battle, intrigue, blood and sex plus above all, a fantastic, plus the brilliant-brilliant performance of Cate Blanchett (yes, I'm seriously considering making her my 1998 winner after all). The Golden Age was bound to fail in comparision with the first part and unfortunately it wasn't a pleasant surprise. It was surprisingly unbalanced and shallowly written and the battle wasn't as epic as I remembered. I just don't like it when historical movies turn out to be soap operas, simple as that.

However, I DO love Cate Blanchett and she always makes up for the mistakes of her movies. There's just a special aura of greatness around her, which makes you shake in your boots. What I mostly admire about her is her incredible range: it doesn't matter if she has to play a fallen teacher in Notes on a Scandal, Kate Hepburn in The Aviator or Queen Elizabeth for that matter. Being trained in the theatre is surely a great push for any actress and in that way she's just like Great Glenn: she brings her confidence and energy from the stage to her movie, which lead to wonderfully vital and balanced performances.

And yet, not even Cate is able to resurrect the legend in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. She's a brilliant actress but not a miracle worker. Actually, I feel it's easier to stand out in a bad movie with a showy character (just see the 65% of Meryl Streep's movies) than being in a so-so movie with an incomplete, one-dimensional character. Queen Elizabeth is a character that's so often portrayed that it's very difficult to add layers to her character and it takes a less-known story of her life to find out  something new and interesting about her. The story with Mary Stuart is a very interesting one and so is the one with the Spanish armada, but I felt the movie wanted a bit too much with showing both of them. As a result, we don't get a real insight into Elizabeth's life, we just get to se small, rushed chapters.

My main problem was that Cate seemed to give in way too early and turned out to be Joan Collins earlier than she could have. A bitchy soap diva might be amusing to see, but hardly Oscar-worthy. What makes Cate better than that is simply that previously mentioned energy of hers. Although some might argue that it would have better for her to go all the way with being campy, I think it was better to keep some sense of nobility and dignity around Queen Elizabeth. I think it's one of the biggest misconception of people that Elizabeth was a drama queen and that's what made the first Elizabeth so special: Elizabeth was portrayed as a powerful woman, full of passion and doubts about herself. I understand that power and being a queen changed Elizabeth as a person, I just refuse to believe that it could transform such a strong character in such a dramatic way. I don't think she became a whiny schoolgirl after all those years.

That being said, this Elizabeth doesn't develop more than characters from Melrose Place, you can just see patterns in her: she's bitchy, than she shouts and she calms down eventually. With such shallow writing, I don't think Cate could have done wonders with the part. She's given neither the time nor the opportunities the make up for all the flaws in the writing (she could have pulled it off if the movie had been just twenty minutes longer). Whenever something interesting is about to happen, there's a useless scene of an assasination or torturing, which is in Cate's way. As a result, none of the relationships seems realistic or complex enough.

And we got to another sore subject: the (lack of) chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen. There were two good-looking, exceptionally talented actors and yet there's no fire and music around them: the five minutes that they spend together just doesn't convince me that this relationship caused such a crisis in Elizabeth's life. We supposed to believe something that is seemingly missing from the movie and all this just weakens Cate's efforts.

The same applies for the execution of Mary Stuart: instead of suggesting real moral dilemma, the movie decides to show a whiny Elizabeth who easily gives in to her advisors. This storyline is probably one of the most wasted ones ever in the history of film. And in spite of all these things, Cate was still able to draw my attention. And why is that? Because she's an f-ing brilliant actress and it's always a joy to see a performer at the top of her career, even if the role doesn't live up to her wonderful talent. Despite all the obstacles, Cate simply cannot lose her charm and powerful presence and that's what she has and Ellen Page doesn't: Cate is capable of showing her greatness even with the shittiest material (even if it's for a short period of time). And a great actress always remains one.

To sum up, Cate Blanchett's second Elizabeth is a real disappointment, but I'm much more forgiving about it than others. Cate is always such a force on screen that it makes up for the flaws of the character a little bit. Although there's no depth or real development in Elizabeth, Cate is able to prevent the movie from being a total disaster and she kept me from turning off the tv set. A flawed performance for sure, but not a real failure.

What do you think? (The very predictable conclusion comes today as well so that I can finally move on from this bland, uninteresting year to something REALLY excting.)


mrripley said...

I just remember her looking lost is some scenes esp when acting opposite blank canvass abbie cornish and all the "i have a hurricaine in me" speech is more bad writing but cate b camps it up i am afraid,i thought her and esp owen were useless as lovers,morton was special in a tiny role but this film sullies the 98 version.

dinasztie said...

I agree, though I wasn't that fond of Morton, either. :/

Billy Kramer Fan said...

Great review! I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I liked this movie,the costumes, make up and hair were so cool. It took me away from reality for a little while. Didn't anyone out there want to be a queen when they were little? Do you see Bette Davis as Elizabeth, now that was an overacted hoot. I think Cate rocked the part.