Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Josie Rourke directs Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie and Guy Pearce in this historical retelling of the rivalry between Elizabeth I and her cuter cousin.

An often very sumptuous film (if you like flame red hair, shimmering navy dresses and primary coloured lady armour get ready for an ocular treat) with two strong lead performances that gets lost in the weeds. Ronan laughably never ages during the 25 year timeline, while Robbie almost goes full Freddy Krueger with her pox scared make-up. You kinda hope it might descend into full camp (the dialogue is often fittingly bad enough), and let us just enjoy a historian troubling catfight. This is at heart an awards botherer though wanting to keep its feet firmly in the less splashy puddles of prestigious production and anachronistic identity politics. So we are left with a carousel of short lived coups where every male character gets to shift allegiances and plot, while the powerful icons (and brilliant stars who play them) get sidelined somewhat in the wearying shuffle. “Who is betraying who now, Lady Bird?” “I give up, Harley Quinn.” A bad film posing as a great one, it reminded most of Bohemian Rhapsody. This one just isn’t as triumphant in forcing fact and cliche through the sausage grinder of what it thinks it’s audience wants. So we are left with Ronan and Robbie grand standing, revealing their humanity and suffering the will of the inferiors… and even in a clunky movie, that is worth the cost of admission alone.

6

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