A Regal Blunt Is Perfect As ‘Young Victoria’

29 01 2010

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent

Release Date: Dec. 18, 2009 (limited release)

26-year-old Emily Blunt may not seem like the best actress to portray Queen Victoria as a princess and through her first few years of reign from the ages of 18-22 in the 1830s. While not completely out of her age range, the maturity reflected in Blunt’s face could seem out of place on Victoria, who lived a sheltered life under the “Kensington System” devised by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Sir John Conroy (her mother’s ever-present companion and supposed lover). However, from the first moment Blunt utters the line reminding us that “even a palace can be a prison” in Jean-Marc Vallee’s The Young Victoria it’s more than apparent that she will do this role justice and make Victoria sparkle.

The film, as the title suggest, follows the life of Victoria as she navigates her way through life towards the throne and love and attempts to leave the rules and regulations placed upon her by the Kensington System behind.

The system, which was supposedly put in place to protect the heir-apparent to the English throne, forbid Victoria from ever being apart from her mother, her governess or her tutor. She was not allowed to walk down steps unless she held one of her keeper’s hands and she was kept isolated from anyone whom the Duchess or Sir John felt could be influencial against their will.

Not surprisingly, when King William died and Victoria ascended to the throne she did away with the Kensington System by requesting an hour to herself and demanding that her bed be removed from her mother’s room. And, upon moving into Buckingham Palace – she was the first royal to live there – she subsequently had Sir John banned from her apartments.

But The Young Victoria is not primarily a story about the rebellion Victoria led against the system,  her mother or Sir John to become her own person. Instead, it is a coming of age story and features a brilliant love story between Victoria and her cousin Albert.

When Victoria first meets Albert, it is apparent that these two are destined for greatness – whether that be solely a part of the movie or how it truly happened in history is an unnecessary question as Hollywood is not known for it’s strictly factual historical pieces but rather for entertaining the audience. And entertaining it is. Rupert Friend looks as though he stepped out of a portrait of Prince Albert and walked on set. He imbues his character with a warmness and strength that beautifully compliments Blunt’s Victoria who is innocent and intellectual. It’s impossible not to smile as the two discuss the microscopic life she leads in terms of chess, especially when Albert suggests that she find a husband who can navigate her life with her instead of for her. They might has well have put a neon sign above his head with an arrow saying “Choose Him!,” but that doesn’t make the scene any less tender.

However, their love wouldn’t be easy as Albert was not easily accessible as he lived in Germany and Victoria needed guidance upon her ascension to Queen so she turned to Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany). Again the writer and director seemed to flash the neon sign of “This guy is bad news!” above Lord M.’s head, but that didn’t stop Victoria’s infatuation and complete dependence on the man for a time. Albert began to feel slighted as Lord M. began to play a large factor in Victoria’s letters causing him to plan a return trip to England. He offered his services to Victoria, but she rebuked him by stating that she wasn’t ready to accept his help in her reign.

Soon after Albert offered his help, Victoria’s court was imbued in a political scandal caused indirectly by Lord M. but furthered through Victoria’s own stubbornness. Melbourne had resigned as Prime Minister and his successor wanted Victoria to dismiss some of her ladies of the bedchamber as they were all wives of Melbourne’s friends. Victoria refused as she believed the ladies to be her friends and confidants more than political advocates. Public opinion turned against her however and found her crying out to Albert for help.

The two married in 1840, three years into her reign, and Albert became her constant companion until his death in 1861.

Blunt’s Victoria and Friend’s Albert are so compelling that their love is touching. The brief glimpse into Victoria’s early life and the life she shared with Albert is frivolous at times, romantic at others and altogether enjoyable to watch for an hour and a half.

Final Grade: Good

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