Movie review: ‘Elizabeth,’ a warrior of many wigs |

Movie review: ‘Elizabeth,’ a warrior of many wigs

Shauna Farnell
Vail, CO, Colorado
Shauna Farnell

The only thing I could remember from the first “Elizabeth” (1998) was that the movie’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth I, in a gesture of stoic strength, shaved her head at the end.

Luckily, it’s not at all necessary to enter “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” with any background or recollection of the first film.

And ol’ Liz has learned to wear wigs like a champ. Thanks to the miracle of 16th century vanity and pampering, she’s got about 400 of them. The costumes and setting are just a couple of reasons to like this film, which takes place in the latter half of the 16th century when England has, during Elizabeth’s rule, gone Protestant despite Spain’s power and Catholic dominance.

All the things people love about period films ” public executions, wars at sea, horses galloping fiercely, beautiful woman in low-cut corsets, beautiful men with set jaws and hard stares ” are deliciously present.

Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) starts off a bit less intense than in her exit appearance from the first film. (Think bald lady with white poker face and elaborate headdress). She giggles and gossips with her ladies in waiting and playfully belittles her potential suitors who come from all over Europe with offers for “the virgin queen.”

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Eliza doesn’t raise an eyebrow until Walter Raleigh (Clive Owens) rolls onto the scene. He arrives boldly, uninvited among the potential suitors, assertive, rugged and carrying mysterious treats like tobacco and potatoes. He, a devout protestant and admirer of the queen, also brings news of a new colony he’s founded (later to become something like North Carolina). It seems that Raleigh may have, during his travels, had a run-in or two with Spanish ships. Not everybody is so besotted with the queen. And Spain’s ambassador in England is none too happy to learn of this alleged piracy. As ever more Catholics both inside and outside of Britain begin conspiring for the queen’s death, Liz loses some of her inherent cool. Who wouldn’t be ruffled, though, if Mary Queen of Scotland was sitting in her minimum security prison plotting assassinations?

As angelic and god-loving as Mary pretends to be, and as committed as all the various followers appear to be to their respective convictions, this film demonstrates, like so many others, how a ridiculous amount of blood has been shed in the name of religion. Surely that’s not what any scripture had in mind …

Anyway, at least Elizabeth, unlike some of the others, appears to not particularly enjoy slaughtering people. She demonstrates more than once that she is an uncharacteristically merciful ruler. She has other upstanding qualities, too. Like speaking German fluently and selecting a stylin’ Ruppunzel wig for when she rides around on her beautiful white horse and joins her soldiers to fend off the advancing Spanish Armada.

As tensions mount and assassinations are attempted, the queen struggles with control and power issues, but fortunately has a psychic astrologer (fortune teller) at her side in times of real political and emotional strife.

She never seeks any prophecies personal in nature, but we get the idea that being a virgin queen whom half the country hates and half loves and juggling the appropriate royal measures for traitors and loyal subjects can make for kind of a lonely, stressful life. But really, this girl’s a trooper.

If you can choke down the silly, dolled-up scenes featuring Elizabeth galloping around a little too heroically on her white steed and twirling in slow motion on an illuminated pedestal, then it’s almost impossible to not admire this historic icon. Let’s add her to our list of impressive dead people to meet in person if anyone ever succeeds in inventing a time machine. We could suggest she add a splash of vibrant color ” maybe blue or green ” to her wig collection.

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