Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mike The Boss - Films of 2010 - Film the Eleventh: The Young Victoria

(Why was I thinking of naughty chess jokes during this scene?)

The Young Victoria (2009) (Dir: Jean-Marc Vallee)

Another queen movie for me! This one follows the chaotic first years of Victoria's rule and her romance with Prince Albert. If you are looking for gorgeous set pieces, fabulous costumes and high drama and political intrigue, this movie is for you.

Emily Blunt gets the nod as Queen Victoria and does an excellent job of portraying a willful 18 year girl who ascends to the most powerful seat in Britain. Rupert Friend plays Prince Albert and does a great job showing the respectful intelligence of the man. Paul Bettany is Lord Melbourne, Albert's competition for Victoria's hand in marriage. Miranda Richardson looks a little out of place as the Duchess of Kent (Victoria's mother) as does Jim Broadbent as dying King William but they can be overlooked.

The movie starts with typical teen drama. Victoria mom and her mom's boyfriend want Victoria to do as she is told but Victoria knows that they are not the boss of her and says, "No way Mom!" Okay, that isn't how it really goes. In reality, the Duchess of Kent and Sir John Conroy (played by Mark Strong) want Victoria to sign papers that declare them to be her Regents until she turns 25 (she is not quite 18 yet). The king is dying and they consider Victoria too young to take the throne. Victoria, strong willed teen that she is, declines their generous offer and sets about getting ready to rule the kingdom.

The coronation sequence is pretty damned sweet with lots of pomp and circumstance, everyone in their finery and the sets dolled up to the max. Blunt plays it well showing a touch of nervousness but keeping her facade of regalness for the public. This two-sidedness of her nature is continued throughout the film including during the romance with Albert, her dealings with Lord Melbourne and the parliament and with the general goings-on within the palace. She always seem to have a bit of that young teen petulance mitigated by her years of training to be the Queen of England.

The romance with Albert takes a long time to come to a head but the wait is worth the while. Poor Albert is constantly frustrated because he can't come out and say how he feels directly because his lady love is the Queen of England. Meanwhile, Victoria is having trouble making up her mind because, well, she IS the Queen of England and pretty much everything she does has double and triple meaning regardless of whether she wants to do so. The nice touch is that a lot of the long distance romancing is taken directly from the actual Queen Victoria's collection of letters. So we get to hear what the real queen thought when the real romance was happening.

Anyway, there are no real surprises here other than Albert getting shot (he did not in reality). Eventually, Victoria realizes Albert is a good match, they have an absolutely fabulous wedding and they live happily ever after having 9 kids until Albert dies and Victoria goes into mourning for the rest of her life. For a different look at Victoria's latter years, check out the marvelous Mrs. Brown, starring Judi Dench as an older Victoria and Billy Connolly as John Brown, her supposed lover. It makes a good companion piece to Young Victoria and is a damn fine film too.

As an aside, the film was written by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote Gosford Park and the film was directed by Quebecois film-maker JeanMarc Vallee, who directed C.R.A.Z.Y. . Both of those films are worth checking out as well.

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