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Elizabeth (1998)
Rated R

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Joseph Fiennes, and Geoffrey Rush

Rating:
***
out of
*****

The second of last year's two big costume dramas (the first being Shakespeare in Love), Elizabeth tells the story of Queen Elizabeth's rise to power and her initial troubles in retaining the throne. It's a tale of back-stabbing, love with ulterior motives, politics and misguided religious fervor gone wrong. It's also entertaining, but not quite as much as I had led to believe.

Cate Blanchett is stunning as the new queen. Her performance simply radiates star power. Hers is a career that should be given special attention. Joseph Fiennes, from Shakespeare in Love, is equally excellent as her lover, Lord Robert Dudley. Geoffrey Rush, also from Shakespeare in Love, is just splendid as Walsingham, the queen's trustworthy advisor.

While the film's subject is quite interesting and the sets and costumes are fantastically detailed and a wonder to behold, the actual telling of the story falls a little flat. The first hour of the film seems a bit sloppy in its handling of the set-up. The final hour is marvelously entertaining and tightly paced. The film could have benefitted from a balance of the two.

It is interesting to watch Elizabeth as she learns her role and molds her actions in response to the circumstances before her. You can watch her mature onscreen, which is fascinating. However, the back stories concerning those who want her to marry for their own benefit and others who want to dethrone or kill her for a variety of reasons simply get tedious after awhile. While I'm sure the movie's attempts to remain reasonably accurate are to be appreciated, they don't make for a movie that moves quickly or with a definite sense of purpose. Plot-wise, things begin rather muddled and remain that way for most of the film.

Still, the film manages to overcome most of its inherent problems through the strong performances of its cast and the marvelous cinematography. Elizabeth is a great movie to occupy a Sunday afternoon.

Trivia: Director Todd Haynes also directed the TV movie Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story in 1987.(Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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