The short sad reign of Mary Queen of Scots, and her relationship with her cousin Elizabeth, should make a terrific movie, but this isn’t it. The actresses playing Mary and Elizabeth (Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie) are fine, and the politically-oriented script by Beau Willmon is pretty good, and reasonably accurate as these things go. Elizabeth rather famously refused to marry, fearing that any man she chose as husband would inevitably try to seize the crown for himself; what happened to Mary, who married three times, each husband a bigger PoS than the last, suggests that Elizabeth was right. I’m not sure why the movie didn’t work – an earlier movie made in the 1970s with two even better actresses (Glanda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave) wasn’t that great either.
I wonder if the problem is that modern moviemakers can’t get around presenting the two Queens as real women. Both women were quite aware of the power of their sexuality (the Virgin Queen never married, but she was likely no Virgin), but it seems as though modern directors want to treat them both like Queen Victoria (whose prudishness has been overstated as well, but that’s a story for another day). In real life, Mary Queen of Scots was apparently 6 feet tall and loved to play golf — now there’s a movie I’d pay to see.