Reviews: Mary Queen of Scots and The Mule

At the movies: Saoirse Ronan leads historical drama Mary Queen of Scots, while Clint Eastwood directs and stars in The Mule. Photos: Supplied.

At the movies: Saoirse Ronan leads historical drama Mary Queen of Scots, while Clint Eastwood directs and stars in The Mule. Photos: Supplied.

Mary (Saoirse Ronan) – the Catholic Queen of Scotland – returns home from France following her husband’s death.

Upon her return to Scotland, tensions rise between Mary and the Protestant Queen of England, Elizabeth (Margot Robbie). 

Much to the dismay of the men around her, Mary wishes to lead both Scotland and England to prominence. 

Almost every Oscar season, Hollywood delivers at least one costume drama examining an important part of history. 

Mary Queen of Scots pales in comparison to black comedy/costume drama The Favourite

The Favourite delivers personality and enthusiasm in spades, whilst saying something about today’s political issues. 

Among its many successes, it also manages to analyse and dissect the genre. 

Mary Queen of Scots, on the other hand, plays it completely straight. Its lack of humour or charm is evident early on. 

Mary, portrayed as the ‘stolid leader’, fails to remain compelling throughout the movie’s exhaustive run-time.

We know she wants to be queen, but we never find out why. Given less screen-time than expected, Elizabeth is pushed to the background and given little to do.

Being two of Hollywood’s best young actresses, Ronan and Robbie excel despite the dry material on offer. 

The Mule 

Hollywood superstar Clint Eastwood has returned to the director’s chair for his latest passion project. 

Here, he plays Earl Stone – a Korean War veteran and award-winning horticulturalist adored by almost everyone. 

Although despised by his ex-wife, Mary (Dianne Wiest), and daughter, Iris (Alison Eastwood), he shares a bond with his granddaughter, Ginny (Taissa Farmiga). 

After going bankrupt, the 90-year-old is forced to run cocaine to and from Chicago for the Mexican drug cartels.

Eastwood’s career as a director has spanned many decades.

His efforts range from sublime (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima), to mediocre (Invictus, Gran Torino), to flat-out horrible (The 13:17 to Paris, Hereafter).

The Mule is a mixture of good, bad, and ugly.

The movie starts out on an awkward note. From the opening scene, many of its supporting actors and extras deliver terrible performances. 

Filled with clunky exposition, implausibilities, and hammy dialogue, Nick Schenk’s screenplay also falls flat. 

Directing himself in a leading role, Eastwood’s ego is on full display the entire time. Despite being embroiled with the cartel, his character never feels scared or remorseful. 

Co-stars Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, and Laurence Fishburne are hampered by their mediocre DEA sub-plot. 

The Mule makes for a peculiar end to Eastwood’s career.

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