Is the story of Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I the proper one to burden with a feminist message? A historical past of two enemy queens — divine and empowered by birthright — getting right into a decades-long spat over who will rule England, it sounds extra like a cleaning soap opera than a soapbox.
However the taxing new movie “Mary Queen of Scots” starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie chooses lame self-righteousness over drama, and shoves it in our faces for 2 hours. It’s a royal chore.
Too unhealthy, as a result of Mary versus Elizabeth was a catfight for the ages. Through the 16th century, the younger Mary (Ronan) was Queen of Scotland, Queen of France and — being a Stuart — had a official declare to the English throne as nicely. However that enviable seat was occupied by Elizabeth I (Robbie), who naturally hated her haggis.
Greater than something, Mary needed to be named inheritor by her childless cousin, Elizabeth. That means, Mary’s son James might sometime rule.
James, whom we see right here as a child, ultimately did get to don the crown. However — spoiler alert for anybody unfamiliar with this 400-year-old story — Lizzie chopped his poor mother’s head off for treason.
With emotional peaks like that, the film ought to be as fiery as its stars’ pink hair. However director Josie Rourke and the screenwriters douse the flames with an excessive amount of behind-closed-doors machinations of bland males — Elizabeth’s ineffectual privy council, Mary’s conniving brother and husband — once we need feminine fisticuffs.
The 1971 “Mary, Queen of Scots,” which memorably and extra efficiently paired Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave, gave us such savage strains as, “You, madam, who hate me and want me useless and worry to kill me, you’re my mortal enemy.” Right here we get a bunch of high-minded speeches about responsibility and the way very onerous it’s to be a queen. They’re extra cordial than a guide membership.
Ronan performs Mary as a Joan of Arc determine. She cares solely about her accountability to Scotland, and is flabbergasted that anybody would dare get in her means. She walks round distractedly as if she’s listening to voices.
Robbie, in the meantime, is the stodgiest Elizabeth ever filmed. Wildly miscast, she turns the completed queen right into a useless outdated crone. She consistently whines about how stunning and younger Mary is, and is traumatized by her personal smallpox scars. She tears up as she speaks of her courtly difficulties, saying, “I’m extra man than lady.” Coming from a real-life bombshell, it’s all a bit wealthy.
Higher is the epic look of the Scottish Highlands. Aerial pictures of a whole bunch of troopers marching via hills or trotting on horseback are spectacular, and the movie makes clear the putting distinction between cosmopolitan England and the extra rural Scotland.
However I’d gladly commerce all that sweep for some spit and vinegar.