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Movie Review: “Mary Queen of Scots”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 12/21/2018

Theatrical Release: 12/21/2018

Synopsis

Mary (Saoirse Ronan) is the Queen of Scots and she has returned home from her time in France. She now has her sights set on the throne of England, but she does not want to overthrow the current queen. She instead just wants the current Queen of England to bow, recognizing Mary as the rightful heir to the throne. Mary’s cousin—the current Queen of England—takes this very personally.

Queen Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) is insulted by Mary’s demands. She sees it as an insult to the fact that she has not married, and the fact that she has not had a child—an heir of her own. This starts a bitter feud between the two queens, as they both try to resolve this conflict in a way that makes themselves come across as the “victor”, but rumors quickly start spreading regarding Queen Elizabeth’s health. It all started as a civil request by Mary to be named as successor to Elizabeth’s crown, but things quickly turned into a heated rivalry.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Mary & Elizabeth (+3pts)

Mary (-6pts)

Saoirse Ronan (+8pts)

Too Much (-6pts)

Margot Robbie (+4pts)

Men (-4pts)

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Pro: Mary & Elizabeth (+3pts)

This movie was at its best when it was focusing on the feud between these two historical figures. The two were cousins, but they had two very different lives. One sat upon England’s throne, had immense power at her disposal, and feared losing that power and hurting her reputation. The other was the Queen of Scots, but she very much wanted to sit on her cousin’s throne, and was willing to do anything she could to fulfill that dream.

The two had a heated rivalry. Through everything else that occurred in the movie, it was this feud that loomed over every decision made by these two characters. The movie was boring in some areas, but it was this feud that kept me watching. My only complaint was that the rivalry did not get the focus that it deserved. I liked what we saw of the feud, I just did not think we saw enough of it. That being said, the scene where the two finally met was still pretty impactful, once I got past the silliness of the hanging cloth—you will know what I mean if you see the movie.

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Con: Mary (-6pts)

This movie was about Mary, and not about Mary and Elizabeth. I liked the feud between these characters, but I do not think it was developed properly because the filmmakers decided to focus so heavily on Mary’s story. The characters went back and forth with respect to how they viewed each other, and that constant flip-flopping felt unjustified, because the feud was not developed properly. Instead of focusing on the best part of the story, the filmmakers decided to focus on telling as much of Mary’s story as possible—and somewhat neglecting Elizabeth.

We saw a lot of Mary’s struggle for power within her own kingdom. Mary certainly did not have a boring story, but it felt like the filmmakers got distracted from telling the story that they initially intended to. Right up front, they setup the feud between these two Queens. They then got sidetracked and got caught-up in telling Mary’s story, before finally coming back around to the feud at the end of the movie. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to focusing feud, I thought it had lost most of its momentum. It was like listening to someone tell a story, then they go on a massive tangent, then eventually come back to the point they were initially trying to make. It was not that the tangent was not interesting on its own, but it was a distraction from—and even ended up hurting—the main story.

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Pro: Saoirse Ronan (+8pts)

Saoirse Ronan did an absolutely fantastic job in this movie. Her character suffered through a ton of tragic moments throughout the course of this story, and Saoirse Ronan did a great job of playing this character through it all. She suffered through a lot, but she remained hopeful, and did not sway from her goal of getting what she thought she deserved. There were some uneventful lulls throughout the movie, but Saoirse Ronan kept me in hopeful anticipation of what would happen next in Mary's story and how Saoirse Ronan would bring it to the screen. With a lesser actress, this movie would have been pretty boring, and quite possible a struggle to get through. With the talented Saoirse Ronan, there was something to like about this movie in even the most boring sections.

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Con: Too Much (-6pts)

In addition to losing focus of telling the story of Mary‘s feud with Queen Elizabeth, the filmmakers also got caught-up with trying to tell too much of Mary’s story. We end up seeing a large portion of Mary’s life, and it is not always exciting. Are there some exciting moments? Absolutely but, by trying to tell so much, the filmmakers made a movie that feels longer than it is and becomes boring at times. Queen Mary lived a very complicated life. It was too complicated to fit into a single two hour period, but the filmmakers tried to squeeze as much of it in there as possible. Not all of it was necessary for this movie and, by refining it, the filmmakers could have solved a lot of this movie’s problems.

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Pro: Margot Robbie (+4pts)

Margot Robbie was great as Queen Elizabeth. She was completely captivating whenever she was on screen but, as mentioned before, this was Mary’s story. In this movie, Queen Elizabeth does not get a ton of screen time. When she does, however, I found the character to be a captivating enigma and I believe Margot Robbie was the main reason why. She played the character as if she always had something to hide and as if she always is planning her next move.

Queen Elizabeth goes through more growth than Mary, because of what she is forced to deal with. I am not going to get into the details here, in the event that you do not already know the story, but Margot Robbie did a fantastic job of bringing every single ounce of this character’s pain to the screen. The character kept her composure, but it was clear that she was absolutely boiling with emotion. This made the character so compelling to watch. Queen Elizabeth was an interesting character, sure, but Margot Robbie masterfully brought the compelling nature of that character to the screen.

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Con: Men (-4pts)

I will be completely honest in saying that history was far from my best subject in school, and that I know very little about Queen Mary’s story. However, the portrayal of men in this movie felt like a lazy, blatant attempt at pandering to the women in the audience. Almost all of the men in this movie were evil, despicable people, and the reason why they were the way they were was because the were men. The only somewhat decent man was the one homosexual character in the movie—cause they would not dare make him evil, right?

Do not get me wrong, there are some terrible men out there, and I am sure there were plenty in Mary’s life. Anyone who sees women or people of different sexual orientations as inferior, just because they are who they are, have no place in our society. However, the fact that all of the straight men in this movie were evil came across as a lazy generalization. The filmmakers seemed to make all of the straight men evil, just for the sake of saying that women are great. They could have just as easily shown the female protagonists as strong chatacters while also delivering an accurate sample size of men—some evil, some good, some straight, some not, and some falling somewhere in between. Delivering an assortment of characters with an assortment of beliefs, behaviors, and orientations would have made the world within this movie feel real. Instead, the filmmakers delivered what felt like a pandering caricature of history.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C- (74pts)

Mary Queen of Scots tells the story of Mary, who was Queen of the Scots—I know, mind boggling. What made her story so interesting was that Mary’s cousin was also Queen Elizabeth—the reigning queen of England. The two were cousins, and they ruled sister countries, but Mary wanted more for her legacy. The feud between these two queens was an interesting one, but I felt like the filmmakers lost sight of this aspect of the story.

The filmmakers got so caught up in telling Mary’s story, that they neglected to develop the feud properly. Sure, her story was an interesting one, but the most compelling aspect of this movie was the feud, and it felt like it took the back burner to everything else. Fortunately, both Soairse Ronan and Margot Robbie did fantastic jobs in their respective roles, with Saoirse playing the main character of the movie so obviously getting far more screen time. It was an interesting story, with great performances, but I felt like the filmmakers tried to cram too much of Mary’s story in here, which made the film feel long and slow. It was not without its strengths, but I thought it was fairly disappointing.

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