The December rush of films has begun. With a lack of Star Wars film holding back the would-be blockbuster hordes, the last month of the year has turned into a free-for-all with no less than 18 movies going into wide-release over 10 days. At the head of the rush is the Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie period piece based on two Elizabethan-era queens, which opens in limited release this weekend. The Mary Queen Of Scots ratings suggest this will be a costume drama worth watching.
The film is billed as a historical drama, but it's based on a non-fiction book, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. Ronan stars as Mary and Robbie plays the Queen of England, Elizabeth I. To be clear, Ronan's character is not Mary I, Elizabeth's sister known as Bloody Mary. This is Mary Stuart, Queen of France and Scotland, who was Henry VIII's niece, making her and Elizabeth cousins. When she declared herself the rightful heir to the throne of England, the two became enemies.
Critical consensus is the film is a smart political thriller, and Robbie and Ronan are both well cast as well as perfect foils for each other. The film is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at 75 percent as of this writing.
Entertainment Weekly says the film's keen feminist sensibilities and the director keep the movie on track:
What keeps the film from feeling like period-piece amber... is the keenly feminist sensibility of first-time director Josie Rourke and the fierce charisma and complicated humanity of its two leads, sovereigns till the end.
Over at USA Today, Brian Truitt gives the film a pass on any historical trespasses made in the name of a good movie:
Two crazy-good actresses and a modern political resonance rule in the 16th-century period drama Mary Queen of Scots, even if the film doesn't go all in on historical accuracy.
And at Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson allows the film to slide into his good graces, even if period royalty is a bit overplayed right now.
I report with uneasy surprise that, in that regard, Mary Queen of Scots, from theater director Josie Rourke, earns its spot on the royal register. But this should be the last one! Seriously this time.
The film is only opening in a few theaters this coming weekend, so there are no box office predictions for it yet. This will be the "test the waters" limited-release ahead of the full Dec. 14 opening. But the 14th is a crowded house, with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse probably sucking up most of the oxygen, and Mortal Engines struggling to see if it has the gas to go anywhere.
Mary Queen of Scots isn't really playing for box office glory anyway, as this is a film prepped for the long haul in hopes of Guild and Oscar nominations come the beginning of the new year, when the real push to get audiences to see the film will hit their stride.
For those who love this sort of history stuff, get in before the crowds do. Mary Queen of Scots technically opens Dec. 7, but will not arrive in theaters near most people until Dec. 14.