You can forget any serious notions right now of Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Universal, 10.12) being a Best Picture contender. I’m not in the least bit sorry to be the bearer of dispiriting news for the Universal team because this film is an affront to the lost art of story-telling, to logic and clarity, to the tradition of historical costume epics and to God Herself.
I have been to the temple of madness this morning. I have tasted true lunacy. I feel as I’ve been injected with bad mescaline against my will, and that I need to be taken to the nearest hospital in an ambulance. I have seen Cate Blanchett in silver body armor atop a mighty steed and giving a St. Crispin’s Day speech and wearing a long red “war” wig and wondered, “What’s happening here? Is it me or the movie, or should I just take the elevator up to the roof and jump off?”
This is the kind of wretched, at times laughably mudddled historical epic that makes you say to yourself over and over, “Wikipedia’s Elizabeth page will save me, Wikipedia will save me…thank God for Wikipedia!”
Director Shekhar Kapur has delivered a big canvas super-movie that is entirely (surprise!) about the delivery of wow visual elements — costumes, sets, thousands of candles, wigs, more costumes, courtly elites in dapper gowns and well-trimmed beards — and is borderline ludicrous in just about every other department.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age delivers the kind of hammy overwrought insanity that makes Peter Jackson‘s Lord fo the Rings trilogy look like a model of erudition and old-school restraint. It’s the kind of film that makes you want to run out into the street, screaming and hyperventilating and wildly searching for a valium, a drink, a suppository…anything that might provide a measure of relaxation. I chuckled, I howled once or twice, I wanted to cry, and I was open-mouthed with astonishment.
Poor Cate, poor Clive Owen, poor Geoffrey Rush…they must have had a rough idea what they were getting into (Kapur’s first Elizabeth movie was insane also), but this is the kind of thing that just tips over like a huge kettle of gumbo on the floor, soaking everyone’s shoes and sending bypassers scampering.
I’m guessing that Elizabeth: The Golden Age is going to be very, very popular with a certain type of moviegoer and a certain type of critic. It’s definitely a ride and a swim in a pool of fire, but the old “you’ll have to check your brain at the door” maxim doesn’t come close to addressing the situation.
The central conflict of the story is between Spain and the madness that was Catholicism — somewhat akin to the fundamentalist Islamics of today — and Elizabeth’s England. I’d like to explain further but I have to go upstairs and catch Joe Wright‘s Atonement, which is starting in 20 minutes. Talk about states of post-psychedlic, faux-operatic frenzy.
I need to calm down. I need a cup of coffee. I need a Jamba Juice. I need the warm embrace of a friend.