Show & Tell: Mary Queen of Scots


I’m writing this with a slight post-Oscar emotional hangover, so please pardon any solecisms or typos.

In a fitting goodbye to the cold, turbulent month of February, we will be watching a hot, turbulent movie on Tuesday night: Mary Queen of Scots.

As you no doubt noticed, Mary Queen of Scots did not feature prominently—zero wins and zero nominations—in this year’s Oscars. The film got only a moderate amount of love from the critics and was just a moderate success at the box office.

So what makes me want to see it? Well, I’ve watched this Elizabeth/Mary story at least half a dozen times in the past (probably closer to a dozen if you count PBS historical dramas about the life of Elizabeth) and it’s a corker. The Mary of the title has been the queen of France and, after her husband dies, returns to Scotland to take up her throne there. Elizabeth, a young queen walking a tortuous path during a time of religious conflict, sees Mary both as a cousin and a rival. It’s a relationship that would be fraught enough even without the Protestant vs. Catholic element.

I have loved just about everything Saoirse Ronan (Mary) has done, and see Margot Robbie (Elizabeth, but still sporting a little in-your-face sparkle from her role as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya) as an excellent candidate for strong-woman roles of any kind. So there’s the pure star-power thing going on. (Ronan has had three Academy Award nominations and Robbie got an Academy Award nomination for Tonya and a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting for Mary.)

And the previews I’ve seen promise some truly impressive costuming and cinematography. (Note: Impressive doesn’t necessarily mean historically authentic, but that’s something we can talk about later. This isn’t a documentary.)

But, like a theatergoer who has seen Hamlet acted many times, I’m especially looking forward to seeing how the script shades and interprets the relationship between the two women. Are they the pawns of male advisors? Victims of historical necessity? Afflicted by conflicting loyalties? Trapped in a love/hate relationship?

In other words, I’m ready for a cracking good costume drama with two strong female leads. That’s quite enough to get me into a theater seat.

I hope to see many of you there, despite the efforts of the weather to blow our collective houses down. The movie will run at 7:00 in The Historic Theater and the discussion will follow immediately.

And for the month of March, the discussion series features a critically acclaimed Korean thriller/allegory/fable, Burning, in the Loft on March 12 and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg drama, On the Basis of Sex, on March 19, which tells the story of Ginsburg’s early career efforts to get the Supreme Court to hear a discrimination case. Both films should make for great discussions.

Paul Goodwin