Mary Queen of Scots

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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In another costume drama we’re introduced to Mary Queen of Scots, who ascended to the throne when her father of King James V died six days after she was born.

Raised in France, Mary married King Francis II, but returned to Scotland in 1561 after being widowed. There her second husband Henry Stuart was murdered and she married James Hepburn, the man accused of Henry’s death.

Now that would make an interesting enough story, but in the new film “Mary Queen of Scots” we focus more on the struggle for the throne between Mary and her first cousin twice removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

The film chronicles the Northern Rebellion of 1569, an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles from Northern England to depose Elizabeth and replace her with Mary.

That story — “Mary Queen of Scots” — is currently being told on screens at Tropic Cinema.

Movie buffs will recall that this historical event has inspired a number of retellings. We’ve seen Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Samantha Morton play Mary; while Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren, and Cate Blanchett have taken on Elizabeth.

This time around we find Saoirse Ronan in the role of Mary. The young Irish-American actress has impressed us in films ranging from “Atonement” to “Brooklyn” to “Ladybird.” Along the way she’s garnered three Oscar nominations, as well as four British Academy Film Awards nods, and a Golden Globes win.

For the role of Elizabeth, we have Margot Robbie, the Australian actress who has wowed us in such diverse films as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Suicide Squad,” and “I, Tonya.” The Tonya Harding biopic got her nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA award, and more than a dozen others.

“Mary Queen of Scots” is a classic story of a fight for political power. Not surprising that the film’s screenplay was written by Beau Willimon, the faustian genius who helped develop “House of Cards” on Netflix. Only here, the powerplays take place in the 16th Century rather than modern Washington, DC.

Although based on a book titled “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart,” Willimon’s screenplay has been criticized for historical inaccuracies.

“Historians have already labeled the film problematic from Mary’s Scottish accent (apparently it was French) to the film’s dramatic in-person confrontation between the two queens (apparently it never happened),” writes Benjamin Lee of The Guardian.

Helen O’Hara of Empire Magazine calls the film “a history lesson with more fire in the belly than most.”

Robbie Collins of The Telegraph dismissed the accent debate, describing Saoirse as being “note perfect.”

A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls the biopic “sexy, spirited, and almost convincing.”

Another writer defended the historical lapses: “No one is watching this for educational purposes. Nobody’s gonna pay to watch a movie about passive aggressively writing letters … Chill.”

And The Daily Edge summed it up: “This’ll be a must-see in the new year.”

Our comment: Beau Willimon should update the screenplay and sell it to Netflix as the story of two female presidential candidates fighting over the results of the electoral college’s vote count. It’d sell.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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