Friday, December 25, 2009

The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria is a solid effort from screenwriter Julian Fellows (Gosford Park, Vanity Fair).

Emily Blunt proves capable of capturing a young woman on the verge of controlling an empire and struggling with advisors, her mother's power-hungry lover (Mark Stong), and her own ideas for her country's future.

And yet, something is missing.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed The Young Victoria. The sets, cinematography, acting, and costumes all demonstrate talent and a keen eye for the period. Maybe I've just seen too many of these paint-by-number historical dramas, or perhaps this film does too little to distinguish itself from all the others.

The film is an attempt to show Victoria (Blunt) blossoming into womanhood, her rise to power, her early years as Queen, and her romance with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). And it does exactly that, and nothing more.

One of the film's biggest flaws is it's choice of time period. Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain for almost 40 years, but that Victoria isn't the one captured on screen. This Victoria doesn't know who she is yet, and neither does the film. As a result, the film struggles, especially in the first act, as it tries to find a voice for its main character.

Instead of focusing on the breadth of Victoria's reign, director Jean-Marc Vallée is content to only give us a look at her personal life of the young Queen. In essence, it's a blander version of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette without the style, elegance, and daring filmmaking.

It's quite possible I'm being too hard on The Young Victoria, and by my comments you might be thinking of avoiding the film.

I wouldn't go that far. For those who enjoy historical films like these, you are going to get your money's worth. And had the film not been released during award season (and didn't reek a little of Oscar bait), I might have found it a little more to my liking.

Besides Blunt, there are several strong performances including Friend, Strong, Paul Bettany, and Jim Broadbent. Blunt carries the story, but each actor adds something memorable to the film. These performances coupled with the design of the film makes it an easy recommendation.

The Young Victoria is not a great film, but it is quite good. I'd compare it to something like 2008's The Duchess. It's definitely worth a look, but it's not in the class with the best films of this year.

No comments: