It’s easy to be offended by The Great, the new anti-history romp set in 18th Century Russia.
After all the women are but playthings for the men, considered little more than sex objects and child-bearers.
So it is in the court of Peter III of Russia (Nicholas Hoult) a virile ruler who weds young Prussian Catherine (Elle Fanning) via an arranged marriage, with a view to procreation and not much more.
While she has ideals of a blissful honeymoon night, he would rather get the deed done to resume partying with best pal Grigory (Gwilym Lee). Parachuted into this world of misogynistic men and acquiescent women, she struggles to bite her tongue. That’s despite new ideas sweeping Europe from France.
Even an effort to open a school for young girls is burnt to the ground -literally. It will take an idea planted by her servant Marial (Phoebe Fox) for her to chart a path that will lead her to becoming Catherine the Great.
“Women are for seeding not reading,” insists the young emporer.
Aussie creator Tony McNamara (The Favourite) has a rollicking time playing loosely with facts, all in the middle of some stunning locations (including Italy’s Royal Palace of Caserta). The costumes are similarly, money on the screen. It’s far more playful than period drama Victoria and light years away from a recent Helen Mirren series.
The jokes are there from the get go.
“You look taller in your portrait,” Peter says upon meeting Catherine.
Elle Fanning gets to bring a 2020 perspective to this very classic backdrop while Nicholas Hoult, who shot to fame in Skins, eats up his bad boy role. Watch our for McNamara’s wife Belinda Bromilow as Aunt Elizabeth.
Like most western portrayals of Russian tales, the accents are decidedly British upper-class, despite all the glass-smashing, rabbit-shooting and grand furs. This appears to be the screen convention, so who am I to argue?
Reimagined dramas from Shakespeare in Love to Hollywood may not be historically accurate but they can be enormously entertaining. Or even rather Great.
The Great airs Saturday May 16 on Stan.