Elizabeth (1998): Kapur’s Historical Epic as Contemporary Melodrama, Starring Cate Blanchett in Oscar Nominated Role

Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth,” a chronicle of the early reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533-1603), is an historical epic that’s done as a melodrama from a contemporary standpoint. Dark, bold, and often outrageous in its excesses, it’s sort of a soap opera version of a conspiracy thriller, laced with light (anachronistic) feminist streak. narrative.
Our Grade: B- (**1/2* out of *****)
Kapur, an Indian director based in the U.K., and his scribe Michael Hurst, don’t believe in the Masterpiece Theater style, and so they emphasize the violent action, lurid intrigues, and the full-throttled melodramatic, rather than the civilized and stately rituals we are used to be seeing in these costume dramas.
At the center of this intrigue is the tumultuous, ever-shifting relationship between Mary Tudor (Kathy Burke), daughter of King Henry VIII, circa 1554, after the split from the Roman Catholic Church.
As Elizabeth 1, the great Cate Blanchett, who is perfectly cast, rises to the occasion and gives a bravura performance, which dominates every scene she is in.
She is helped by the handsome and appealing Joseph Fiennes (brother of Ralph), who plays her love interest, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, and Geoffrey Rush, as Sir Francis Walsingham.
Kapur had previously directed the violent and controversial, “Bandit Queen.” Some critics have compared this “Elizabeth” to the French movie, “Queen Margot,” in its dark tone and bloody violence, elements which no doubt were inspired by “The Godfather” movies. Others dismissed the plot-driven film as too much of a soap opera to be taken seriously as a biopic.
In a major surprise (upset), Elizabeth garnered Best Picture nomination, without recognizing the director or writer.  It’s plausible to assume that it was voted by members of the technical branches, due to the period opulence and lavish production values.
Nominated for seven Oscars, the film won just one: Best Makeup for Jenny Shircore.
Oscar Nominations: 7
Picture, produced by Alison Owen, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan
Actress: Cate Blanchett
Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin
Art direction-set decoration: John Myhre; Peter Howitt
Film Editing: David Gamble
Costume Design: Alexandra Byrne
Makeup: Jenny Shircore
Oscar Awards: 1
Makeup
Oscar Context:
The five Best Picture nominees in 1998 fell into two categories: Movies about royalty (“Shakespeare in Love” and “Elizabeth”) and WWII pictures (“Saving Private Ryan,” Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line,” and even Roberto Benigni Holocaust fable “Life Is Beautiful”).
The most nominated film, “Shakespeare in Love,” swept most of the Oscars, including Picture, Director and Actress to Gwyneth Paltrow, even though Blanchett was expected to win.
Blanchett won the Supporting Actress Oscar in 2004 for portraying Katharine Hepburn in Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic, “The Aviator.”

Credits:

Gramercy release

Working Title Production
Running time: 124 Minutes