It’s Margot Robbie vs. Saoirse Ronan in the ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Trailer

This royal rumble is the Oscar bait side of the same coin spinning with Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Favourite.’
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By  · Published on July 12th, 2018

This royal rumble is the Oscar bait side of the same coin spinning with Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Favourite.’

Everyone loves a film that allows its performers to strut and chew the scenery. The very concept is what keeps royal melodrama thriving, churning countless BBC exercises and supporting the United Kingdom as their greatest export. Give me Laurence Olivier mourning the lifeless skull of poor Yorick over some Russian dashcam exploitation any day of the week. An actor with the right words spitting passion from their heart can topple any summer blockbuster extravaganza. Well, maybe not financially, but they make quick work as critical darlings and awards season fodder.

The new Focus Features trailer for Mary Queen of Scots gets the blood pumping. The film is a Game of Thrones level battle for the highest seat in the land. Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I vs. Saoirse Ronan as the titular Mary, two friendly cousins reduced to raging rulers of war. We’ve seen this vengeful saga several times before in films such as Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Mary of Scotland. Most of you probably know the conclusion already, but that doesn’t stop our enthusiasm from seeing these actors rumble.

Yep, yep, yep. Give me all of that. Friendship, romance, heartbreak, and betrayal elevated to righteous bouts of indignation as the fate of their two countries lies in the balance. This is crack for a theater kid.

Which makes sense. Director Josie Rourke is the current artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse theater in England (Sam Mendes was before her), and she has taken her productions across the pond from the West End to Broadway. On stage, she has worked with Tom Hiddleston, Gemma Arterton, and Liev Schreiber. There is no doubt she can bring the requisite emotional agony out of Robbie and Ronan. Although, they can achieve such feats on their own.

My eyebrow does raise a little considering that this trailer falls just days after catching our first glimpse of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite. Granted that film takes place two hundred years after the events of Mary Queen of Scots but deals with similar themes of decaying royalty, albeit in a much more biting and satirical manner. Depending on your mood, one might prefer Rourke’s traditional stab at UK anarchy, but with each passing film, Lanthimos’ particular brand of dramatic absurdity takes a hold on my personality. Mary Queen of Scots would no doubt turn her nose up at such improper bad taste.

That is the joy of cinema. We can have both. When we’re feeling stuffy and erudite, Mary Queen of Scots fits the bill. When we’ve got the giggles, The Favourite will be there to chastise convention.

For now, let’s just bask in the intensity of the Robbie/Ronan grudge match. Two actors are firing on all cylinders, looking to tear the other one down with their mastery over the art form. Have you already picked a side? Personally, I’ve always rooted for the underdog. Best of luck to her, but I’m thinking Rourke will not grant the Inglourious Basterds obliteration of history I may crave. Lanthimos might.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)