Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Notable Cast: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Jim Broadbent, Paul Bettany, Mark Strong, Miranda Richardson
When the Golden Globe nominations were announced this week and Emily Blunt received a nomination for Best Actress for The Young Victoria, my expectations were immediately set high. Period pieces have been award season gold in recent years with films like Elizabeth, The Duchess, Shakespeare in Love and Atonement. Although The Young Victoria is ambitious and strives to be like those films, it’s a bit ironic that a film about the longest reigning sovereign in history is more akin to Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
The film begins with a few introductory sentences onscreen meant to plunge us into the world of British royalty, but ends up just being a little too confusing. Victoria is the only descendant between three brothers: her father, who passed away, her uncle King William IV of England (an amusing role played by Jim Broadbent), and her uncle King Leopold I of Belgium. Because of this, she isn’t allowed to leave the palace, isn’t allowed to have friends, isn’t allowed to read books, and even isn’t allowed to walk up and down the stairs without holding the hand of an adult. When William IV passes, Victoria is 18 and takes the throne determined to lead the country her own way.
Throughout her teenage years, Leopold I has been arranging the marriage between Victoria and her German cousin Albert (Rupert Friend), encouraging Albert to write letters to Victoria. This starts the budding romance between the two, which eventually leads to their marriage while Victoria is queen.
All events in the film are dramatized to highlight the romance between Victoria and Albert, not all of them historically accurate. If the film were just a period romance it could have been more effective but instead, the romance is reserved for the second half of the film. The first half of the film is effectively boring as we cut back and forth from England and Germany with the scheming of Victoria’s mother (Miranda Richardson) and Sir Conroy (Mark Strong), and the courtship of Victoria by another suitor, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) taking center stage. There is just too much going on. All of the fine actors aren’t given enough time to shine, and the audience gets either bored or distracted trying to keep up with everything. By the time we get to the second half, the film settles into a romantic pace.
Albert truly was the love of Victoria’s life. At the end of the film, more words come up onscreen to tell us that every day after his death, Victoria had Albert’s clothes laid out for him. For over 40 years. She never married again, and the image of an elderly Queen Victoria in her mourning clothes is the typical image of her that comes to mind. Emily Blunt does a fine job of showing us a different Victoria and her Golden Globe nomination is well deserved. She is well matched with Rupert Friend. The banter between the two is enchanting, their romance very well depicted.
The parts of the film with Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend exude sexiness and romance, but the rest of the film is a poorly thought out visual feast with lavish sets and costumes. Much like Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, Victoria seems to be all about exciting the senses, but leaves much to be desired in the way of character development or story. Nevertheless, it is an ambitious project produced by Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. But it would have worked better if it were done in two films: one, a sexy film like Atonement, and two, a film about the Duchess of Kent or Sir John Conroy. Even with a Golden Globe nominated performance, The Young Victoria leaves much to be desired.
Tags: Atonement, Elizabeth, Emily Blunt, golden globes, Jim Broadbent, Marie Antoinette, Martin Scorsese, Miranda Richardson, Paul Bettany, Rupert Friend, Sarah Ferguson, Shakespeare in Love, Sophia Coppola, The Duchess, the young victoria