The epic costume period piece "Mary Queen of Scots" is well acted and has outstanding set design, makeup and costumes and although every scene is riveting on the big screen, the first half leaves you trying to piece together the history books. Even though we know the ending, getting there is not easy.
Rated R for some violence and a bit of sexuality, the Focus Features film is directed by Josie Rourke and written by Beau Williams based on John Guy's 2004 biography.
I saw this one with the stars present themselves at CAA here in L.A. Wanted to love it.
The film does have solid betrayal, palace intrigue (as we know it in today's political world) and there is rebellion but not enough of the two leading ladies facing off. We needed more of them...together. Mary Stuart is played by Sairose Ronan and Queen Elizabeth I by Margo Robbie, who is unrecognizable. Robbie is outstanding with her smaller part. Ronan as a lead was better in Brooklyn although a great actress.
Mary became the Queen of France at 16 and was a widow at age 18. It is now 1561 and Mary is returning home to her Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne but Scotland and England are ruled by Elizabeth I. We watch as each Queen pushes to preserve their place in history. Mary asserts her claim to the English throne and that threatens Elizabeth. They want to like each other but are rivals. Yet they are cousins.
This is Ronan’s film. She's the title role although Robbie's performance is so powerful. But only one scene has them go head to head. A bit more of them doing that fine dance on screen is what was warrented. (Though maybe in real life they only met that one time in this time in history but poestic licence can change that and should have.)
The problem is, despite all the atributes of this grand movie making, unless you know the history and can read the introduction tiny words on the screen which fly by so fast, it is hard to understand what is going on for the entire first half of this film. You follow tiny scene by tiny scene but can't quite piece it all together fully for viewer comfort. It starts to mesh as time goes on - thus the stars and their performances, along with the set design, are far better than the actual storytelling itself.