"Flat, Anachronistic, Revisionist, Abhorrent Ode to Confusion"
What You Need To Know:
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is a boring disaster which has something in it to offend everyone, as well as a few positive points. In the interest of diversity, the movie destroys the story’s historicity and gives backhanded condemnations of those who represent the diversity. The costuming and cinematography are terrific, but the acting is uneven and the plot static. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is a flat, revisionist, abhorrent ode to confusion.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is a boring disaster which has something in it to offend everyone as well as a few positive points. In the interest of diversity, the movie destroys historicity and even gives backhanded condemnations of those who represent the diversity.
The movie opens giving away the ending, with Mary in a cell in 1587 in England saying her prayers before going to be beheaded as she appeals to God’s grace.
Cut to 1561 when Mary and a few oversized rowboats are landing on the beaches in Scotland. Mary falls on her face, which may be a metaphor for the whole movie. As a child, Mary had to flee Scotland and was raised in France. She married the king in France, who died, and now she’s back in Scotland to claim her crown from her stepbrother James who’s been ruling in her absence. The plot problem is clearly overstated often throughout the movie: Queen Elizabeth rules England as a Protestant monarch and can’t have a competing monarch who’s Catholic in Scotland, which was officially independent.
Mary rides through some beautiful scenery to meet her half-brother and takes over the Scottish crown. Queen Elizabeth’s privy council tries to figure out ways to get rid of Mary throughout the movie. Mary’s privy council is none too happy about this Catholic monarch’s return, especially John Knox, the great Protestant reformer who’s the father of modern Presbyterianism. In real life, Knox had been enslaved on a galley for 18 months, had suffered at the hands of the Catholic and had been chased all over the countryside by the Catholics, and had good reason to call people to a biblical faith apart from the burdensome religiosity of Rome. In the movie, Knox is portrayed as a right-wing, fundamentalist bigot, who hates women and hates Catholics and who organizes an army against Mary.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth’s privy council has come up with a scheme to send Queen Elizabeth’s male consort, Robert, a Protestant to be betrothed to Mary so that Mary won’t represent a threat to Protestant England. Mary rejects Robert, and another Englishman , Henry, comes forward who is Catholic and woos Mary by giving her oral sex. After they’re married, Henry has an affair with a cross-dressing African minstrel. Mary tells the minstrel that’s his nature, so she doesn’t blame him. She wants to get pregnant, so she keeps Henry.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth’s council funds an army against Mary, headed by Mary’s stepbrother, James, but Mary defeats the army. Mary also has a child with Henry, whom she names James. Then, her privy council, headed by the Protestant dissenters, accuses the minstrel of adultery and stabs him to death, spilling his guts. King Henry is banished with his boyfriend, and then he’s strangled to death after they blow up his castle.
Bothwell, the Catholic nobleman taking care of Mary, decides to forcefully marry her by giving her some very rough sex. Mary finds out that everybody has deceived her. She’s told she has to flee to England to protect her life. Mary’s son, James, is put under custody under his Protestant uncle and eventually becomes the Protestant king of England, King James I, after being the Scottish monarch.
Clearly, this movie is aiming for diversity with a whole bunch of African, English nobility and an Asian lady in waiting. However, the African nobility gets to Scotland and tries to take advantage of one of Mary’s maids, who reminds him he’s married after he slobbers all over her, and the homosexual characters in the movie are rotten to the core. So, if the movie was trying to applaud this diversity, it didn’t do it. In fact, the men are all bad. Elizabeth says she’s more of a man than a woman, so she’s bad. Ultimately, the only good person is Mary, even though she’s imperious, philandering, opportunistic, and stubborn.
Like its namesake, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is highly Anti-Protestant and confused about Catholic theology, especially when Mary says to her Protestant troops that they’ll all be in the same Heaven since, at that time, not being in communion with the Catholic Church, meant that you weren’t going to Heaven.
It may be good news, therefore, that the plot is so anemic. Not only do they give away the ending in the beginning, but the storyline is static, with very little growth in either Mary or Elizabeth.
Instead of a developing plotline, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is more of a dull pingpong game, which in the end really doesn’t matter. It written more like a TV program. The focus is on character, not story. Movies are driven by story, but TV is driven by characters whom you like and come back to watch week after week. Ironically, none of the characters are likeable.
That said, Saoirse Ronan does a great job as Mary. Also, Margot Robbie does a good job as Elizabeth. Most of the other characters, however, blend into one another.
The bright spots in the movie are the camerawork, which is beautiful, the costuming which is terrific, and several scenes, complete with dialogue, about prayer. Otherwise, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is a mess, and one can only pray that it’s not shown to impressionable minds who might get the wrong impression that this is history. It is not.