Category Archives: based on a true story

FILM REVIEW: Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Having been in the pipeline for several years, Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Josie Rourke, finally makes it to the big screen. Based on John Guy’s biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, with a screenplay adapted by Beau Willimon, the film sees last year’s best actress contenders, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, star together at last, even if it’s just in one scene that has historical purists all riled up.

After becoming Queen of France at age sixteen, and then a widow at just eighteen, Mary Stuart (Ronan) returns to Scotland to reclaim her throne. However, England and Scotland fall under the rule of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie), and so the scrambling begins.

What ensues is what can best be described as an absolute clusterf**k. Not in terms of the film per se, but rather more representative of the shitstorm that is the monarchy system, particularly in 1569. The storyline is somewhat difficult to follow because of the sheer absurdity of it all – who should marry who, who should screw over who, who should actually screw who. Perhaps history buffs will have a better chance of understanding, but then again, the film seems to have produced a lot of anger about its historical inaccuracies, so perhaps nobody wins.mary queen of scots poster

While it is a period film, Mary Queen of Scots sets itself apart as a contemporary film, particularly with the inclusion of queer supporting characters as well as its sex scenes. The main characters are women, though not surprisingly for the time, despite their strength of character and their supposed power, they still get their shit dictated by a group of men. Supportive female friendships are portrayed between the queens and their ladies in waiting, while the men do all the bitching and manipulating.

Ronan and Robbie are naturally exceptional in the lead roles, their one scene together the clear highlight of the film as their contradictory feelings for each other – fear, admiration, spite, and love – are all apparent. It’s a shame we only get to see them together for a few minutes. Guy Pearce, David Tennant, and Gemma Chan have small roles, as well as a host of other lesser known actors, but they all pale in comparison to the women we’ve come to see.

The stunning Margot Robbie uglies it up again under a mountain of make-up and prosthetics, in stark contrast to Saoirse Ronan’s naturally beautiful Mary. The hair and make-up is Oscar-worthy, along with Alexandra Byrne’s costumes. It’s not, however, the best sign when as a viewer you find yourself contemplating how much time royalty spent getting their hair done in the morning, instead of the complexities of British history. It’s a gorgeous film starring gorgeous and talented actresses but its plot, much like how Mary ended up, is a bit of a mess. Props to Rourke who attempted to portray a trueish story, but Mary Queen of Scots suffers in its close proximity to the recent release of The Favourite, which is the far superior choice if you want to see royalty portrayed on screen in an entertaining fashion.

3 stars

This review was first published on 14th January 2019 at Film Blerg.

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FILM REVIEW: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Following an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids back in 2012, Melissa McCarthy is getting Oscar buzz again for her starring role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? based on the memoir by Lee Israel.

Lee Israel (McCarthy) was a celebrity biographer who was down on her luck after poor sales and a lack of support from her agent (Jane Curtin). With not even enough money to pay for her cat’s vet bills, a chance find by Lee sparks an idea about how she can make money from her writing: create fake letters by literary greats and actors and sell them to collectors. The film, directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, does a thorough job in setting this up well so that we can empathise with Lee’s criminal actions – her cat is sick, her apartment is flea-ridden, she can’t afford a coat. Not to mention that her victims, for the most part, aren’t exactly the most likeable characters. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

THEATRE ON FILM REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2018)

Back in 2000, the film gods gave us Billy Elliot, a story about a boy who wanted to break gender stereotypes and be a ballet dancer. In a supporting role, Billy’s friend Michael is revealed to enjoy cross-dressing, with this scene celebrated in one of the best numbers in the stage musical adaptation (which premiered on the West End in 2005), ‘Expressing Yourself’. Elton John’s lyrics include “What the hell’s wrong with wearing a dress, being who you want to be… What the hell is wrong with expressing yourself? For trying to be free”. It’s a beautiful moment but its place in the show is mostly as a comical reprieve from the drama of the main character. Continue reading THEATRE ON FILM REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2018)

FILM REVIEW: Beautiful Boy (2018)

Based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy portrays a family’s ordeal with drug addiction with grace. Not to be confused with the 2010 film of the same name which focused on the parents of a mass shooter, the title does similarly refer to a well-loved child who hit rock bottom despite support. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Beautiful Boy (2018)

FILM REVIEW: The Greatest Showman (2017)

“Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for”.

And so begins this year’s second lavish musical extravaganza, The Greatest Showman. But have we been eagerly awaiting this one? The trailers were promising, but with an unfamiliar score and a first time director it seemed a risk. Would this just be another Hugh Jackman letdown in the vein of Pan? Continue reading FILM REVIEW: The Greatest Showman (2017)