Ms Blanchett and the art of fine acting

18 November, 2007 by No Comments

I’m just back from seeing Elizabeth: the Golden Age. It’s all about Cate Blanchett and her fine, very fine acting. It’s a gorgeous looking movie by any account … we can only guess at the number of zeroes in the production design budget. As far as the performances are concerned, the movie is not a patch on the first, which ended with the beatification of the young Elizabeth as servant of her people.

This one is about the canonisation of the queen as she battles approaching age, lack of love, lack of confidence, threats from abroad (the creepily villainous Spanish), the opposition using Mary Queen of Scots … and we know what she’s in for don’t we … and so it’s all about how it happens, not what. Been there, seen that. There’s a real woman inside all that Elizabethan drapery and wiggery, and Blanchett’s job is to humanise her and get the warrior-queen-woman balance right. She’s not helped a lot of the time by the director Shekar Kapur and the screenwriters William Nicholson and Michael Hirst.

The tone is more than a bit pompous at times, and the actors have to struggle with the kind of dialogue that accompanies ‘portentous moments.’ Some go down gnashing and chewing the scenery, especially the villains. Not our Cate and Geoffrey Rush though. They sail through triumphantly.

The thrill of it all lies in watching the infinitesimal and fleeting reactions across Blanchett’s face … and her surprising gutsiness and physicality when she’s driving the action, and not put into saintly-icon reactive mode. I love the scenes where she’s wigless and sporting a very fetching 21st century haircut … a clever touch this. A Woman For All Seasons?

Finally though, it’s the sheer finesse of her work that makes the movie worth the 2 hours or so of screen time. Good acting takes an audience by surprise, and Blanchett is capable of doing this beat by beat. This is an actor on top of her game, and it’s mesmerising stuff.