After having seen the two Elizabeth movies starring Cate Blanchett as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever been honored to have had, I was completely and utterly disappointed by the way in which writer Nigel Williams places a strong emphasis on Elizabeth I's personal romantic life, as opposed to her strength and valor in her line of government duty, which she always put above her own needs and desires.
While I found Blanchett's performance in the other Elizabeth films absolutely stunning, I found Mirren working as best as she could with the script, much as I would expect an internationally famous chef to create something good out solely out of bread, peanut butter, jelly, and if he is lucky, a glass of apple juice! Fortunately, Mirren does go on to another movie: The Queen, and give a spellbinding performance as
Elizabeth II, for which, I believe, she rightfully deserved her Academy Award for Best Actress.
I was deeply saddened by Patrick Malahide's portrayal of Sir Francis Walsingham, which is not a patch on Geoffrey Rush's in the Blanchett movies. Part of the problem, again, was the script, but I also found his performance, unlike Mirren's and Irons', completely lackluster, especially considering that Walsingham's daughter Frances fell in love with, and married, the Queen's boyfriend the Earl of Essex!
Jeremy Irons' Robert Dudley is a very sensitive and caring gentleman who is worthy of the attention of the great queen - and the audience!
While the movie is jam-packed with historical inaccuracies, perhaps the most jarring and irritating of all is the way in which the stepfather/stepson pair of the Queen's featured boyfriends Dudley and Essex keep calling her by her nickname "Bess," even in public, where they ought to have, in such a conservative society, maintained some semblance of respectable distance. Dudley and Essex also appear as unofficial consorts to the Queen, who deliberately never married because she considered herself married to the country. We see Mirren as a much better queen in Elizabeth II, where she maintains her professional and civic dignity, but also shows love and tenderness in private towards Elizabeth's husband and consort Prince Philip (splendidly played by James Cromwell). The difference between Mirren's portrayal of the two Elizabeths is as different as night is from day!
Tragically, in this movie, the writer constantly shows the most disgraceful error of all - Elizabeth I neglecting her duties - and even her family - just so that she can enjoy her men. With her mind apparently on Dudley, she signs her own cousin's death warrant simply to get Walsingham out of her hair, when in the excellent movie featuring Blanchett, Elizabeth grieves over sacrificing the life of her cousin Mary, who is one of her few living biological relatives, so that England - and hundreds of English people - may live. In another scene in which Elizabeth and Essex are playing cards, the Queen jokes about treason, when it is a historical fact that she, herself, was imprisoned - and nearly executed for - treason! I doubt very much that Queen Elizabeth I would have ever used such disgusting gallows humor.
Lastly, upon her discovering that Essex has left, against her wishes, for Portugal, we see her rushing frantically about the castle in her dressing gown while there are rooms full of state officials who need her to hurry up and get to the serious work at running a government, in which thousands of human lives are at stake!
Even the scenery has much to be desired because we are denied the rich luxurious green landscapes that makes England so magical, and as for the costumes on all the female characters, especially Elizabeth, all I can say is "Oops! No hoops!" Where are the hooped skirts that were so fashionable during the reign of Elizabeth I?
Anyone wanting to see a good movie about Queen Elizabeth I might be better off spending their money on the Cate Blanchett DVD's. Anyone wanting to see Helen Mirren as a wise, strong, and caring English queen named Elizabeth may wish to fast-forward in time to the 1990's and see Mirren's spectacular performance as Elizabeth II in The Queen.
Because I care about England, having spent some of my happiest days of my life there myself, I deeply regret that I simply cannot recommend this particular movie.