2007-10-26 / Columnists

MovieScope

'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' - Virgin Territory
Review By Robert Snyder

What is it that makes Cate Blanchett so perfect as Queen Elizabeth I?

Reprising the role she conquered in 1998's "Elizabeth," the Oscar-winning actress seizes it again with equal fury in the new "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." It isn't only her commanding thespian authority that fits immaculately beneath the gorgeous 16th century gowns, shimmering armor or multiple colorful wigs. What makes her believable as the Virgin Queen is her inherent lack of sex appeal. Though she worked at the elusive quality as Katherine Hepburn in "The Aviator" or the predatory teacher in "Notes on a Scandal," she all but gives up in "Golden Age," which is absolutely right for the ice maiden monarch.

Even swashbuckling Walter Raleigh (Clive Owens) can't get under her gowns, diverting his desires to Liz's favorite Lady in Waiting, pretty Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish). The resulting pregnancy and secret marriage infuriates the queen, who has Raleigh and his bride arrested, only to reverse her decision when the need for the capable captain arises with the approach of the Spanish Armada.

Helmed by first "Elizabeth" director Shekhar Kapur, "The Golden Age" covers a lot of ground, beginning with the 52-year-old ruler fending off an assortment of suitors from thrones of the world. Confiding with a geeky German archduke as she peers over her court, she says, "I pretend that there is a pane of glass between me and them. They can see me but not touch me."

However, she does like touching Bess, whose hands she holds during her luxuriant baths. Her rage at the girl's indiscretion is more about loss of control than jealousy.

And control is the name of the game for her highness. "Golden Age" portrays her as a savior, rescuing England from the Catholic Inquisition, which the rabid Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla) is sending over with his infamous Armada. Control is also the reason why cousin and rival Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton) ultimately loses her head. Of course, an assassination attempt plotted by Mary doesn't help.

Despite the pomp and golden glory of the Elizabethan age, the Blanchett asexuality (albeit, historically accurate) makes for a decidedly unsexy movie.

If you're into virgin queens, this is the film to see…although the baldheaded, but somehow sexier Bette Davis of 1939's "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" still rules.

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