Elizabeth - rated - Simmering

Stunning costumes, fabulous cast, wonderful performances, sombre mood, brooding shadows and a bit of sex add up to a very good movie in many respects. Our Cate Blanchett is just terrific as the Elizabeth very few of us have seen or know. Geoffrey Rush is a very suitable Machiavellian manipulator. Joseph Fiennes is a very sexy and sincere lover . Shame about his pants though - the men's costumes are actually quite disappointing. Fiennes always looks as if he's carrying his worldly possessions in his pants, and they're about to pull his shirt and coat off. Richard Attenborough is a subdued, but just right Cecil, James Frain as the Spanish Ambassador is intriguing and brooding, and Eric Cantona (Eric Cantona, the soccer player!) is quite outstanding as Monsieur de Foix, the Duc d'Anjou's representative. He gives the character a real, human character which was a bit lacking in some of the other performances. The usually excellent Chistopher Eccleston, as Norfolk, was threatening but never substantial. His historically crucial role wasn't meaty enough here, and he was ulktimately wasted.

Which brings me to the main criticism of the film. I enjoyed the film very much because of all of the good things I've already mentioned, but there seemed to be something missing. I think the problem is with the script. The language was very simple - too simple in fact. It's an odd thing for me of all people to say, but I think the words needed more resonance, and the script more full-bloodedness. The Elizabethans were a full- blooded lot, and yet here (apart from all the blood-letting, and a bit of sex) they're pretty bloodless. I felt that the culture and the lives of the Elizabethans had been pared back so much that they appeared to be a very minimalist lot. Even their castles were bare - looking more Saxon than anything else. They never talked about their lives, and we never got to know them. There was one scene of dancing lessons (with dancer Wayne Sleep making a brief appearance!), one or two party scenes, and not much else to fill in the moments when people weren't manipulating each other.

And the religious aspect - again, over-simplified. I could have done with much more detail to explain the alleigances and the struggles. When the crucial bill is passed to eliminate Catholicism, I'm sure it was far more complicated than locking a few priests in a cellar for a while.

But thise criticisms aside, Elizabeth is a delight to look at, and to listen to. The music, by Australian David Hirshfelder, works well, including especially the use of Elgar (Elgar!) at the end - it's surprisingly effective. The editing was a bit jerky, particularly in the opening scenes. But then the section towards the end, when Elizabeth takes on a new persona, is just outstanding. A special mention, too, for the titles, which were wonderfully dramatic and yet subtle.

So see, it. Cate's an hypnotic Elizabeth, and the production design it a feast for the eyes.