The Young Victoria (2009), directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is a simple love story and portrays a great job at romanticizing such by wooing the heart of many a teen and twenty-something girl who still wish they were a princess with a showcase of glamorous balls, elaborate costumes and a good-looking prince with a sharp accent. For every other demographic watching the film, read as “male”, the political intrigue of a dying king, an overbearing mother and a manipulative PM, isn’t quite as rewarding.
Emily Blunt, who, as it has been noted, fought for this role, passing on the opportunity to co-star in the comicbook film Iron Man 2, proved that she had every right to play the monarch and did so with a beautifully royal countenance. Along side of her, Rupert Friend is both dashing and enjoyable as her loving paramour bringing an elegance to an otherwise everyman role.
Where the film fails, if the telling of two people successfully in love is a failure, is that aside from the romantic yearning and positively – ahem – Victorian dating rituals practiced within, the viewer does not get to witness the social policies that her reign was responsible for or any true conflict thereof. She has almost already won before the film ends. In contrast, Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth (1998) weds the yearning of romance with hard, state-wide deliberations into a very dangerous conflict, thus creating a more compelling film.
The conflict in this film comes via two different characters and types of love. The first is Paul Bettany in an outstanding performance as Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s PM. Melbourne courts Victoria and offers love, but his is a love of power with wedding Victoria as a clever and manipulative means to grabbing all. The other is King William played by Jim Broadbent, truly the king of acting nobility, who loves his niece and realizes that his own paternal instincts were denied by allowing the Duchess of Kent, her mother, to control every aspect of the young soon-to-be-queen’s life. Alas, Broadbent’s scenes are shorter than a drink of champagne and Bettany’s are as political as the U.S. President in any Jerry Bruckheimer presentation.
The Young Victoria is an enjoyable, romantic film to watch with clever dialogue and outstanding locations. However, The Young Victoria will always be a girl when compared the rich majesty that was Elizabeth.