CAPSULE: Director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriter Julian Fellowes bring us the story of the rocky, early years of what was to become England's longest monarchy. The film starts with some of the drama of that other film of another English queen, ELIZABETH. Perhaps because of the directing or perhaps because of stilted manners of the late Georgian and early Victorian era the film never again catches fire as it does in the early scenes. This is a story of romance, of influence peddling, and of betrayals, played so dryly that we never strongly care what happens. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Very early in THE YOUNG VICTORIA we see the future queen (played by Emily Blunt) just seventeen years old and ill while her stepfather is browbeating her and she is vehemently resisting. He could be trying to convince her to take cough syrup. In fact, he is Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) and he is trying to coerce her to sign an order making her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), her regent. That would be making him the de facto ruler of the United Kingdom. She has power now, even if too young to wear the crown, and if she gives it up she will probably never get it back. It is the signature moment of the film. Here is a girl the age of a high school junior and her family squabbles and her attitudes and decisions will heavily impact not just her life but also the future of her country, Europe, and the world. She is a young woman, but she is the center of a very high-stakes game for power.
This is the story about how Victoria played a dangerous game of power and tried to find love and fulfillment. Suitors besiege her in the hopes of winning her hand and her power. Many would wish to be her advisor. In the next few years she would ascend to the throne as Queen of England and would have to run her country. Needing help in playing the game she gets an advisor whom she at least temporarily trusts, Lord Melbourne. (Melbourne is played by Paul Bettany who had no easy time--and in fact fails--playing a man who was forty years Victoria's senior.) One of her suitors is Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg (Rupert Friend). At first he is obviously a puppet groomed and tutored to attract her with pretended identical interests, a ruse she sees through immediately. Once Albert can be himself, the two find that they might just like each other. Their on-again, off-again relationship might lead the viewer to wonder if they have a future together (at least if the viewer has not been to the Victoria and Albert Museum).
As a viewer I was interested in the history, but found this film frustrating. People of this time period were expected to behave very properly and to not show a lot of emotion, certainly in public. That or the acting robs these characters of much of their interest value. Blunt is charming as Victoria in ways that may not be expected by most people who have seen the usual rounded and older pictures of The Old Queen. But the people of this story are not much more interesting than they would be in a non-fiction history book. It is worth seeing the late Georgian fashions and furnishings, but the actors are little more. Bloodless and reserved, they just never come to life. All the plots against Victoria are just ever so slightly distressing. There would be little dramatic tension even if the viewer were uncertain how it all came out, but the future of this couple and later of just Victoria is just too well known. Even to the end we are never sure if she love better Albert or her spaniel. But she was the longest reigning monarch of Britain, a title she will continue to hold until she is surpassed on August 20, 2015.
With expectations from films like ELIZABETH, the viewer might be disappointed at how unexciting the presentation is here. The film is better as a history lesson, albeit not a reliable one, than as an exciting historical entertainment. I rate THE YOUNG VICTORIA a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0962736/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/young_victoria/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper