Mary Queen of Scots


Mary Queen of Scots ★★ 1/2

Pity the tragic figures of Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), but not because of the roles that life thrust them into. But rather because the latest movie to detail their rivalry in both power and love has the misfortune of opening on the heels of The Favourite, making Mary Queen of Scots, the debut film from director Josie Rourke, seem rarely more than competent, despite strong performances from the two leads. But as the film’s title implies, this is Stuart’s story, an oft-told tale (Katharine Hepburn starred in 1936’s Mary of Scotland, directed by John Ford, while Vanessa Redgrave earned an Oscar nomination in Charles Jarrott’s Mary, Queen of Scots) that benefits from Ronan’s reliably strong instincts, while Robbie unfortunately gets buried under increasingly grotesque makeups that have been designed to both age and scar her. From the false nose and the pustules that appear during a smallpox outbreak, to the subsequent pockmarks and thin hair, much work’s been put into hiding the actress’ beauty, which is usually seen as “brave” during award season (see: Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning turn in Monster, or Nicole Kidman in the upcoming drama, Destroyer). By focusing on Stuart, however, Rourke and her screenwriter, Beau Willimon (House of Cards), never quite find a way to tie these women’s fates together, despite the fictional meeting they concoct. (At Boston Common, Coolidge CornerKendall Square and in the suburbs.)

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