“Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” review by Susan Granger

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This sequel to the highly acclaimed 1998 “Elizabeth” is a historical costume drama – with far more emphasis on the ‘costume’ than the ‘drama.’

It begins in 1585, when strong-willed, independent Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) with her wily adviser, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) faces her biggest challenge from across the Channel. Backed by the Pope and the Inquisition, Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla) is determined to conquer Protestant England, utilizing his mighty Armada, and to place Elizabeth’s treacherous Catholic cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), on the British throne.

Meanwhile, at court, the dashing explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) returns from the New World, bearing gifts – like ‘live’ Indians, potatoes, tobacco and gold – and intrigues Elizabeth with his tales of adventure, while clandestinely seducing her favorite Lady-in-Waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish). Predictably, when Elizabeth discovers that Bess is pregnant, jealousy overwhelms reason.

Melodramatically written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst and pretentiously directed by Shekhar Kapur, it’s lavish but as emotionally barren as Elizabeth herself. Resplendent Cate Blanchett still rants and raves but comes across shriller. While Her Majesty ages, Blanchett obviously doesn’t – the fact that the Queen’s now 52 is obviously irrelevant. Clive Owen oozes charisma, this time channeling that swashbuckling rogue, Errol Flynn.

Trivia buffs note that Bette Davis also played Queen Elizabeth I in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939) and “The Virgin Queen” (1955) with young, pre-“Dynasty” Joan Collins as Bess.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is a shallow, cliché-filled, deafening 6. There’s simply no excuse for Craig Armstrong and AR Rahman’s musical score to be so overpowering – except, perhaps, to keep you awake when you might be inclined to nod off.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.