Directed by Josie Rourke
Written by Beau Willimon
Starring: Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie
Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
MPAA rating: A lady experiences sexual pleasure, therefore, RATED R
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“Marriage is dangerous.”
Being Queen...nah, not today.
I couldn’t help but see this film as a quasi public service announcement. The message being, the life of a Queen, just plain sucks (well maybe, except for the WIG selection). Josie Rourke’s two hour and four minute directorial debut is based on the untold TRUE story of the relationship between Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) and Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).
After becoming widowed at the age of 18, Mary returns to her homeland of Scotland to reclaim her throne as Queen, a land which Queen Elizabeth had been governing from the comfort of England. Throughout the course of the film, it is witnessed the different types of rule that the two women partake in. Mary being charismatic, broad minded (so much so, she accepts a gay man as one of her chambermaids) and bold. While Elizabeth takes a more cautious and reserved approach. Each one chooses to play the game differently, but both suffer a dismal outcome.
These two women were night and day. Each one having their own style when it came to “Queening”. The way of Mary resulted in a life filled with disgrace, scorn, and disrespect. While the Elizabeth method experienced loneliness, misery and detachment. Neither woman had a life that was glamorous.
Knowing very little about either of these women, yet having many notions of what a Queen’s life was, I left the theater feeling somewhat enlightened. The idea that a Queen’s life was enchanting or easy was proven to be a myth after I watched this film. During my bike ride home from the cinema, I developed three key takeaways:
I would never want to be Queen
Most men are afraid of women in power
If my future holds a life with wigs, well, this is something to look forward to
As much as I got out of the film and found the importance of this story, I didn’t feel I witnessed great filmmaking. If I had to describe my feelings on the movie in one word, it would be: meh. This could have been due to the idea, that not much has changed since the late 1500s when it comes to the relationships women have with other women. Frankly, the film left me feeling rather disheartened. For many women that do achieve their goals, they have to do it alone. This causes some women to not know how to assist another, as they never experienced this type of action themselves. It is unfortunate that so many of us are taught to fear one another rather than embrace each other.
However, in this film many of the negative actions taken by the women were due to the men that were in their ears. The fear the men had of the women in power, in turn gave them a singular goal: to destroy the women. It was the men, telling Mary to hurry up and get married in order to produce a child that could later reign both England and Scotland. This as a falsity. The men simply wanted Mary married, so they could have a King that could “control” things. It was the men telling Elizabeth, that Mary was out to get her and that unless she took her down, she would lose all power. Without a child, Elizabeth was giving up the throne. The men pit the two women against one another causing them to experience anxiety and insecurity.
For me, one of the main problems lied in the script writing. When a writer decides to start their story at the end, they are starting the film with a major challenge for the director. As a filmmaker you have to keep the audience engaged in which they already know the ending to. This is difficult feat for even a seasoned director. At times, I felt I was taking the scenic route to a familiar place that I could have gotten to in half the time. I found it hard to stay interested in a story that was so disjointed. I realize the story was about Mary - her name is in the damn title after all - however, I really wanted to see more of Queen Elizabeth, as I feel Margot Robbie is such a wonderful actress. In this film though, her talent is barely utilized. Luckily, you are left with the Saoirse Ronan show, which isn’t terrible by any means.
Despite the issues with the script, I feel the director did a wonderful job of presenting the hardships that these two women experienced. They both may have been Queen, but it was the men that were steering their decisions and ultimately ruling their lives. Pitting the two women against one another in order to achieve the most power. Mary chose to not play by the rules of the men. This inevitably caused her much grief and despair. She may have been the Queen, but only while it was convenient for the men around her. By refusing to follow their ideas of the “right way”, they ultimately take her down. This is why Elizabeth chooses not to wed. She even goes as far to describe marriage as “dangerous”; meaning that whomever she marries, is simply doing it for the title. A way to push her aside and be King. She chooses a tormented life of solitude that eventually turns her cold.
In the end, I’d take the seat of a King any day over the life of being a Queen. The life of a King was portrayed as having only one concern: where their next drink was coming from. I think the only reason to be Queen is for the wigs. Both ladies had some pretty kick ass hair.