Shekhar Kapur’s beautiful, if sudsy, sequel to his 1998 biography of the young life of Elizabeth I is as sumptuous as it is frivolous. This time, Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), flanked by her omnipresent counselor Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), is trying to juggle the commitment to finding a husband and producing an heir, with the struggle against traitors, threats of assassination, and the attempts at userping the throne from Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) and Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla, from “Blow”). Her romantic prospects are bolstered with the arrival of a pirate named Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen, looking like he’s ready to buckle a swash or two). He’s infatuated with her, but is also quite taken with Elizabeth’s ward “Bess” (Abbie Cornish), and so a powerful love triangle is formed. Blanchett, an Oscar-nominee for the first film, exudes regalness and is sharp of wit, but this time tempers herself with a tinge of no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners seriousness. Perhaps the “Virgin Queen” has finally grown into a woman no man could truly love? The screenplay, by Michael Hirst and William Nicholson, is simplistic at best, historically inaccurate at worst, but essentially this is just a great-looking soap opera set against the backdrop of (slightly?) revisionist history, and the results are intriguing and entertaining. NOTE: Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar AGAIN for the same role in this film in 2007.


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