With the lull in royal drama after so many months of dying British Monarchs, The Crown episodes, and the Meghan-and-Harry blitz, Corsage might be the escape watch you need to fill the Buckingham-sized hole in your viewing life.
Capturing attention at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, period drama was named to the Oscars’ Shortlist for Best International Feature this year, but ultimately left out of the final five. Pay not attention to that. Corsage is an imaginative and visually stunning biopic that aims its female-directed lens at “the first royal celebrity,” Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was previously known mostly for her beauty and fashion influence. The film upends the cliches and assumptions surrounding her by exploring her emotional trials, as the royal struggled with depression at a time when society was not equipped to understand its complexities — much less find a cure.
The story: Facing a midlife crisis as she turns 40, Elisabeth of Austria revolts against ceremonial duties and public expectations to seek out her higher purpose in life, a purpose that would ultimately save her legacy.
Why it resonates: Mental health issues, female oppression and unrealistic beauty standards are as resonant today as they were several centuries ago, and they’re inescapable even for the rich and royal. Splendidly portrayed by Vicky Krieps, who won the European Film Award for her role, Elisabeth is flawed but earns our sympathy with her insecurities and an identity crisis that’s relatable for people regardless of gender, social status, creed, or era.
Why it’s Oscar Shortlist material: Exquisitely written and expertly directed by Austrian Marie Kreutzer (The Ground Beneath My Feet), Corsage is an intimate, unapologetic take that departs from previous depictions of Empress Elisabeth, which portrayed her alternately as a mostly symbolic fashion plate or a flippant feminist. Corsage focuses on her vulnerabilities, taking a more layered look at its subject matter in a way that’s both timeless and relatable, a rarity among historical biographies.
Worth noting: The film ends with a shocking scene that some critics have compared to a Quentin Tarantino film.