The Young Victoria
dir Jean-Marc Vallée
scr Julian Fellowes
with Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Miranda Richardson, Paul Bettany, Mark Strong, Jim Broadbent, Michael Maloney, Thomas Kretschmann, Julian Glover, Jesper Christensen, Rachael Stirling, Jeanette Hain
release UK 6.Mar.09, US 18.Dec.09
09/UK 1h45
The Young Victoria
V&A: Blunt and Friend

richardson bettany strong
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The Young Victoria This nicely made biopic is full of intriguing details about Queen Victoria's early reign, although it only lightly examines the political intrigue and romantic melodrama, apparently leaving the interesting shadings off screen.

At age 18, young Victoria (Blunt) decides to take power from her mother (Richardson) and her regent (Strong). But the next stage in her life, obviously, is to find a husband and produce an heir. There's no shortage of suitors, from the feisty Lord Melbourne (Bettany) to Belgium's soulful Prince Albert (Friend). And the path to true romance must overcome considerable political pressures as everyone tries to tell Victoria what she has to do. Of course, she finally puts her foot down, taking control and marrying the man she loves.

That we already know the end of the story kind of removes any romantic tension, although that doesn't keep screenwriter Fellowes from structuring the film as a romantic-comedy. The dialog is witty and sharp, bristling with the politics of sex and filling the screen with all kinds of romantic entanglement. Meanwhile, the political wrangling kind of fades into the background as Victoria faces the pressures that emerge all around her, resisting the manipulators and forging her own path, with her man by her side.

The cast members help bring things to life with tiny asides and knowing glances. Blunt adds a cheekiness to Victoria, even though she's never much more than a sullen teen. Friend finds some especially strong resonance in Albert's precarious situation and lovelorn status. And both Strong and Bettany reveal some raw depth in their conflicted characters. But the film is stolen by the veterans: a glowering Richardson and especially Broadbent as the unhinged King William IV. Both bring fiery emotion to their colourful roles.

It's a terrific story, but the lavish production design and a slightly too-serious approach to the events never pays off in the narrative. It's beautifully shot, staged on a grand scale and detailed down to every thread and bead. But even some smartly funny dialog can't overcome the earnest tone. And there's also the problem that the film ends before anything truly interesting happens in Victoria's life. Since the romance is such a foregone conclusion, the film feels almost like an introduction.

cert pg themes, innuendo 22.Jan.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall