Cate Blanchett, in some of the most sumptuous costumes and outrageous hairpieces, can do her best to growl and roar through this follow-up to the 1998 soapy historical piece Elizabeth, but unfortunately she can't save the faulty script and sloppy pacing that is The Golden Age. This is a shame because the more Blanchett and her equally amazing costars (Clive Owen, Geoffry Rush, Abbie Cornish) plunge into this material with all they've got, trying to compensate for the film's many flaws, the more the movie veers into camp. Thus, the mediocrity of this Elizabeth sequel is not Elizabeth's fault. It's everything else, from the uneven direction to the eye-rollingly preposterous "history lite" storylines.
Taking place 27 years into Queen Elizabeth's reign, she is, technically speaking, 52 years old, though you certainly wouldn't know if from looking at the lovely, spry Blanchett. There is a lot going on in Elizabeth's life which starts to resemble a tangled web of melodrama, not unlike an episode of The Young and the Restless. The Queen is now dealing with both a jealous Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) and a righteous King Philip II of Spain (Jordi Mollà). Add to this mix the roguish explorer Walter Raleigh who needs the Queen's support to continue his expeditions and you've got yourself a slushy spittoon of fantasy/history. To see what I mean,
The smart, saucy Queen's getting it from all sides here, strategizing wars and wrestling with her conscience when it comes to approving death sentences. Then, of course, there's her crush on Raleigh who flatters the Queen to her face and seduces her favorite lady-in-waiting, Bess (Cornish) behind closed doors. For a while it looks like the Queen simply can't win, and then, of course, she does, and it's all very neat and tidy.
In conversations with other people after the screening, the puzzling question on everyone's lips was "Why?" Why make another Elizabeth movie? It's possible any one of the storylines explored in the film could have made for an intriguing tale. But smashing them all together in one movie simply doesn't work in this case. Thus, there are really just two reasons to see this movie that is so disappointing it hurts my feelings: 1) If your love for Cate Blanchett is so blinding you ignore all other aspects of a film, or 2) to gape at the absolutely marvelous costumes that will surely receive an Oscar nod in '08. Otherwise, rent Elizabeth again and let well enough alone.