Drama Queens

Another outsider's view of British history, Shekhar Kapur's dark, gusty account of the young Elizabeth Tudor's ascension to the throne is steeped in precisely the sort of enjoyable hokum that Velvet Goldmine eschews.

An exercise in court intrigue and controlled tumult, the Elizabeth show begins with three Protestants burnt at the stake, but that's about as much public spectacle as the film supplies. In order to survive, the 25-year-old queen (superbly embodied by Cate Blanchett) must elude a host of foreign conspiracies, Vatican fatwas, and trick marriage proposals. Such protection as she has is the province of the cold-blooded spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham (an impressively sinister Geoffrey Rush, who never quite gets the big scene his lurking warrants). This relatively economical period melodrama is mainly a succession of candle-lit interiors— although England has never seemed more English than in the exterior scenes of rude merrymaking. A parallel is established in the contrast between the intrigue-ridden court and Elizabeth's unassumingly fresh and frolicsome nature. The dance the young queen does with her boyfriend— lover seems too heavy a term— is at once courtly and pagan.

Loony tune: McGregor as Curt Wild in Velvet Goldmine
Peter Mountain
Loony tune: McGregor as Curt Wild in Velvet Goldmine


Velvet Goldmine
Written and directed by Todd Haynes
A Miramax release
Opens November 6

Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by Michael Hirst
A Gramercy release
Opens November 6

Any evocation of 16th-century England can bask in reflected Shakespearean glory, but Kapur pushes this even further. More disciplined than his 1994 cause célèbre, Bandit Queen, Elizabeth displays a Wellesian brio in its dramatic overheads, deep-focus compositions, and baroque bustling through cold castles, all serving to emphasize the heroine's search for a center in this unbalanced world. Verily, Elizabeth's most triumphant aspect is Blanchett's transformation from saucy, spirited toe-tapper to iconic Virgin Queen— preempting the cult of Mary with her own personification of the English Renaissance. As common-sensical as her Elizabeth proves to be, Blanchett anticipates the foppish pop savants of Velvet Goldmine, who advise, "The secret of becoming a star is knowing how to behave like one."

« Previous Page

Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Box Office Report

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!