Directed by: Anthony Harvey
Company: AVCO Embassy / Haworth Productons
Runtime: 134 minutes
I think this might just be Katharine Hepburn’s best dramatic performance.
The movie is about three princes of the kingdom who are fighting to get the throne of being the next king. All of them have the desire, but they must battle, not only with sword, but with wits, as they start to compete each other by being wise.
Enter the king, Henry II, who is having a time of training his sons to become the possible king-to-be of the kingdom. He is having an affair with their assistant, who happens to be her mistress too.
Enter his sensible but somewhat bitter wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who happens to be jailed. She comes back to the kingdom to celebrate Christmas with her family and to propose to Henry that her favorite son, Richard, should be the next king and not his favorite son, John. Even though she almost breaks down due to the fact that he doesn’t love her, she maintains her composure.
In this family is all but troubles. And their kingdom is on trouble. Opponents keep on winning, and the kingdom doesn’t seem to be in order.
Enter King Philip to make friendship with the king, but he plots for the downfall of the kingdom.
All of these characters make the twists and turns and twists and turns of this very dynamic story. In the end, terror has been overwhelming the kingdom. It’s now up to the family to make the kingdom a whole.
This is one hell of a movie! It’s an all-star movie. And I’m not talking of actors only.
First all, the direction is so sharp and good. It knows when to calm down, it knows when to heighten the tension, it knows how to make it ironic and funny, it knows when to be serious – it’s full. I think it’s best scene of direction is the climax. Everyone’s running around, and we get to be in there. And that’s important. Most costume dramas tend to be atmospheric but not involving. It has both. And it’s not really because of the sets. But because of the direction.
It knows how to move the characters, the story, and it’s consistent. It doesn’t just go haywire, even though the situations are. It’s just there, and it’s because the mood has been set.
Another star is the renowned screenplay. The praise for it is very understandable. It is very smart, sharp, brilliant, funny, memorable – perfect! The play of words between the characters are just genius. One favorite scene of mine is this:
Eleanor: My Richard is the next king, not your John.
Henry: Why do you care?
Eleanor: I care because you care so much. What would you have me do? Give out? Give up? Give in?
Henry: Give me a little peace.
Eleanor: A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now there’s a thought.
Henry: Believe me, I’ll strike you wherever I can.
It’s a genius, believe me. Yes, some might say it’s unbelievable because it’s the Juno of 1960’s. Yes, sometimes, you can feel that the whole screenplay is a screenplay that has a quotation for each line. But it’s in the spirit of the story and character.
The production design is all excellent. To make the whole thing somewhat silly but serious but elaborate but simple, and most of all, realistic, believable, captivating, it’s breathtaking.
The editing is swift. It has the good ol’ choppy shots, but I’m quite fine with that. The cinematography is okay. It was sometimes dull, but those old-fashioned zooms in some specific scene are well conceived.The music is well-conceived, since it succeeds in giving the movie the atmosphere it needs – that royal tension feeling.
The acting is pitch perfect. Peter O’ Toole is powerful as the king. He knows his character. He’s loud, but not irritating. And why? Because he understands that the character needs to be loud in such a way that it gives the voice of superiority. I don’t know if there is really such a thing as voice of superiority, but his voice is very characterized that you don’t feel that it’s out-of-place.
His acting piece is when he demands the priest to be called in the middle of the night for a wedding. That is great! He’s hysterical there, so is the mood at that same scene, but he knows how to make its work. It’s an epic fail if he failed, but he’s in control of his character that you understand why does he do that.
Katharine Hepburn. What could I say?
Every praise it deserves has already been said. He is Eleanor. The tie that year for Best Actress is one of the best moves the Academy has ever done, since it rewarded actresses who became in their characters. I don’t know. She’s so in her character. Her character is not hysterical, but what her character is very technical.
The character is calculated. And so is her characterization. Every action he gives for the character is well-decided, there’s no single false move in her acting here. As what I have said, all the praises have been sung to her already. She’s perfect for the role, and I’m one of her supporters here. Just read the comments of other reviewers since I can’t find any fault in this character. She’s flawless. An all-time best.
And the best thing about it is that it was able to connect to the audience. In the intelligence it has, it’s just one step from isolation. And it’s just so good in establishing the connection.
However, my not-that-big criticism here is that it goes somewhat overlong in many scenes. Some talky scenes just seem to go on and we just get lost. But I can’t dismiss those who love it.
In the end, what we have here is film that is near perfect, almost flawless, and very-well executed film that doesn’t seem to get my full love, in spite of the love I have in this movie in pieces.
For this, the movie gets:
What are your thoughts, dear reader?