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January 16, 2010
Review - " Young Victoria "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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conspires with Conroy to keep Victoria a virtual prisoner in Kensington Palace. According to their "Kensington System,"
Victoria is prohibited from reading popular books or playing with other children; she must sleep in the same room with her
mother every night and take the hand of an adult whenever she goes downstairs. As she approaches her 18th birthday,
Conroy becomes ever more insistent that Victoria sign an order of regency and hand over any future monarchical powers to
her mother (and, by implication, to him).

Short-tempered and mean, Conroy could pass for
a heavy in The Princess Diaries, and one might be
inclined to cheer when Victoria, on attaining maturity
and, three weeks later, the throne, turns the tables
on Conroy, banning him and her mother to a remote
corner of the palace. But this isn't a kiddie movie:
when Victoria becomes queen, she inherits a more
adult set of problems and discovers that her freedom
is still limited, only in more subtle ways. Fellowes,
who moonlights as a speechwriter for Tory politicians,
has imbued The Young Victoria with a fairly
sophisticated understanding of constitutional
monarchy, and the queen's tactical victories are
always tempered by the reality that her power is
largely ceremonial. The script is also cleverly
structured so that each of Victoria's male antagonists
is dearer to her than the last and, as a result, more
difficult to handle. In the end The Young Victoria is a story not of regal triumphs but of grown-up compromises and

This becomes particularly evident in Victoria's warm relationship with Lord Melbourne, a Whig who was elected prime minister
under William IV. While still under her mother's thumb, the princess executes a deft flanking maneuver by choosing
Melbourne as her private secretary. But once she's ascended to the throne, Melbourne becomes a rather patronizing figure,
brushing off her suggestions that they collaborate to help the poor. ("Never try to do good, Your Majesty," he advises her with
genial cynicism.) In fact, Victoria's loyalty to Melbourne, combined with her political naivete, brings on her first crisis as queen:
when Melbourne is defeated by Tory politician Sir Robert Peel, Victoria ignores the custom of replacing her Whig ladies-in-
waiting with Tory women, and Peel resigns, returning Melbourne to office. The "Bedchamber Crisis" brings an angry mob to
the gates of the palace; at the opera, Victoria is stung when an unseen wag calls out "Mrs. Melbourne," prompting titters from
the crowd.

What filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee has done in this delicious historical romance is capture that hot blush of pure emotion that
comes before kisses, sex and heartbreak. Vallee understands the power in the promise of things to come. As Albert was for
his queen -- the smartest adviser and most loyal ally she would ever have -- Friend is for Blunt. He gives her enough space to
create a star turn while holding his own. Their chemistry is such that you sense their passion and playfulness whether a romp
in bed or on horseback, rain-soaked by a summer storm. Together they create a couple that could become like Tracy and
Hepburn, one you'll want to see again.

A major part in the joy of watching The Young Victoria play out however simply lies in the production values granted here that
bring early 1800's Regal Britain to life with a vigorous realism so rarely achieved quite so strikingly by genre films. Everything
from the costume designs, sets, hair styles, lighting and photography accentuates the grandiose background inherent to
Victoria's story without ever over-encumbering it. Despite his insistence on capturing the very rich palette, Vallée is intent on
making a film that looks like it’s taking place entirely either in candlelight or in light coming in through the windows.

Of course, all this would matter very little if The Young Victoria didn’t engage us as romance and drama, which it happily
does. There’s both fire and backbone in Emily Blunt’s Victoria, but there’s also a sense of the uncertainty of youth — and the
fear of being taken advantage of by those who would manipulate her to their advantage. Similarly fine is Rupert Friend’s
(Pride and Prejudice) Albert, who moves from pragmatic politician to love-struck suitor to unfulfilled prince consort and
beyond with a depth I’d previously not expected from the actor. But in many ways, the smaller roles hold the film in place. Paul
Bettany’s scheming charmer, Lord Melbourne, is a standout — all the more so in his final scene, which is played with moving
conviction. Miranda Richardson as Victoria’s conflicted mother is also of note. Jim Broadbent gives an amusing turn as King
William, although he does occasionally succumb to the temptation of going over the top. Mark Strong is deliciously evil as
the scheming power hungry Sir John Conroy.

The main reason for the film's success, however,
is the performances of Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend a
s the two young lovers Victoria and Albert. Blunt is
probably more attractive than Victoria was in real life,
but in her delightful portrayal the Queen is no longer
the old lady of the popular imagination, the black-clad
Widow of Windsor who was perpetually not amused,
but a determined, strong-minded and loving young
woman. Blunt and Friend make "The Young Victoria"
a touching romance and a gripping human drama as
well as an exploration of a key period in British history.
In the end, it's hard to fault a work such as The
Young Victoria. It's got a perfectly touching and
human sense of affection within its perfectly paced
Young Victoria
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, PaulBettany, Miranda
Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong, Harriet Walter

"What young girl doesn't dream of being a princess?" asks Queen
Victoria in a voice-over from the British period drama The Young
Victoria. Surely there must be some, but for the past decade the
other sort have been lining up at toy stores and movie theaters with
cash in hand. Back in 2000 the Walt Disney Company's consumer
products division struck gold when it launched the Disney Princess
franchise. Curiously, the princess craze parallels a trend for grown-up
movies about female royalty-dramas that focus less on tiaras and
gowns than on the complex problems of women wielding power in a
man's world. Cate Blanchett vaulted into the top rank of stars with her
flinty performance as Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth and
repeated the role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Helen Mirren won a
boatload of awards (including an Oscar for best actress) playing the
politically compromised Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears's The Queen.
One of the better costume dramas last year was The Duchess, with
Keira Knightley as the put-upon Georgiana Spencer, an 18th-century
ancestor of Princess Di. And now Emily Blunt has taken on Britain's
longest-reigning monarch in The Young Victoria, which, more
pointedly than any of its predecessors, ponders the postfeminist
dilemma of how to find happiness in both love and work.

But in this case, being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be. As the
only legitimate grandchild of George III, Victoria is next in line to the
throne after her ailing uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent), yet her
widowed mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson),
Victoria's greatest ally through all this is Albert, son
of a German noble family and her first cousin. Their
common uncle, Leopold I of Belgium, is eager to
forge a political marriage between the two houses,
and though Victoria initially finds the awkward
young man more amusing then alluring, Albert
eventually wins her over with his idealism and
ardor. From the start, their relationship is bound up
in the exercise of power. As they play chess
together—carefully monitored by Leopold, Conroy,
and the duchess—Victoria asks Albert, "Do you
ever feel like a chess piece yourself, in a game
being played against your will?" When Albert
advises her to master the game herself, Victoria
asks, "You don't recommend I find a husband to
play it for me?" Fixing her with a stare, Albert
replies, "I should find one to play it with you, not for