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The Young Victoria

A biopic about the longest-reigning British sovereign gets the job done.

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A royal pair: Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) and Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt)
  • A royal pair: Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) and Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt)

You don't have to know much about history to know something about Queen Victoria: She ruled longer than any other British sovereign, and she has an entire sensibility named for her. Although there have been many English monarchs, the queens most capture our attention: You can be Jacobean or Edwardian, but there's nothing quite like being Elizabethan or Victorian. 

That, I think, would make a good movie: parallel tales of Elizabeth I and Victoria the I and Only. Or better, at least, than The Young Victoria, a comely costumer (apologies to Variety) about the teen-age ascension and first few years of Victoria's 63-year reign, and her courtship and subsequent über-fertile marriage to the Germanic Prince Albert.

There's no suspense in watching the political intrigue that ambles through the plot of this serviceable drama, nor do we wonder if Victoria will get her guy (Rupert Friend), who has tiny lips, smoky blue eyes and patience. When she does, their honeymoon lovemaking is discreet and sexy, and next morning, they smooch and roll around in bed: Instead of him pawing at her, she reaches into his shirt to caress his chest and then rolls on top to play a little more. It's a wonder they had only nine little princes and princesses. 

We're led to believe that Victoria and Albert ruled together as reformers who cared about the poor, and history confirms this. Yet there's not a single flower girl or common dustman in The Young Victoria, despite talk of getting out among the people. Her greatest lesson seems to be that she can accept help as a ruler, and not as a woman, something that the proto-feminist young queen had to learn. 

The story opens with a scene-setting prologue of narration by Victoria (Emily Blunt), who until age 11 didn't even know why people treated her so specially. She couldn't walk a staircase without holding someone's hand, and as the only surviving child of three royal brothers, she knew that upon the death of her beloved Uncle William (a blustery Jim Broadbent), she would take the throne.

Which is why Sir John (Mark Strong), in liege with Victoria's mother (Miranda Richardson), wanted her to relinquish her power to a regency. No go, said Princess Vic, and when she became queen, she became queen. She took too much counsel at first from Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), who desired the prime ministry. His advice toppled the sitting government, which provoked public outcries that only quelled when Victoria finally wed. 

The acting in The Young Victoria is grand and British, if a bit rigidly classical, although Blunt is too strong an actress to ever seem as delicate as we sometimes need to believe (or fear) Victoria is. There's no spontaneity in her performance: It's a little too perfect, and she reminds me of a girl (now woman) I knew in high school -- coyly imperious, with an unbridled laugh and a tethered spirit, aching for emancipation.

 

Starts Fri., Dec. 25.

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