Combustible Celluloid
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With: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Adrian Lester, James McArdle, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Eileen O'Higgins, Alex Beckett
Written by: Beau Willimon, based on a book by John Guy
Directed by: Josie Rourke
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and sexuality
Running Time: 124
Date: 12/08/2018

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Heir Triggers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Just about everything that's usually wrong with costume movies is on display in this dull, chunky ornamental iceberg. It begins with some printed text that's supposed to provide a backdrop, but it goes by pretty quickly, and -- as someone who is not already an expert on Mary, Queen of Scots -- I spent half the movie trying to catch up, and simultaneously trying to keep from falling asleep. Mary Queen of Scots ostensibly tells about the conflict and connection between Mary (Saoirse Ronan) and Elizabeth (Margot Robbie). Mary is the rightful ruler of England, but also a Catholic and therefore unacceptable; she returns to Scotland to rule there, and attempts a kind of truce with Elizabeth, the current ruler of England. The men who counsel both women strong-arm their own opinions into things, and the women are constantly thwarted. There's a race to marry and produce an heir, and a stalemate over who gets to be the next in line for the throne. Screenwriter Beau Willimon and director Josie Rourke present the story in unwieldy chunks, with time marching forward in unknown blocks, although they occasionally identify places that I'd never heard of, with no context. Most of the scenes seem to be attempts to present characters talking to each other in front interesting backgrounds. Sometimes characters talk while riding horses, and you might wonder where they're headed. Nowhere, it seems.

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