Thursday, December 24, 2009

Movie with Abe: The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Released December 18, 2009

It takes a lot of panache to play a queen. It’s also crucial to the success and uniqueness of a motion picture such as this. There are so many cinematic portraits of royalty and nobility that, insulting as it is to the real-life people on whom the projects are based and whose life stories they tell, they all start to blend together if they don’t have enough distinguishing features. “The Young Victoria” narrowly avoids that fate, thanks to the noble efforts of its cast and a genuinely interesting story of one girl fated for greatness whose ascension to the throne occurred at a young age.

Emily Blunt has the incredible ability to steal the spotlight in witty supporting roles and make even the most minute part absolutely magnificent. She held her own against Meryl Streep and completely bested Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada” and illuminated several brief scenes in “Dan in Real Life.” Now she finally has a bona fide lead role, and it’s up to other actors to try to make the most of their scenes in her magnificent presence. Blunt is simply regal as the young princess who became a queen while she was still a child. She has a wonderful presence that demonstrates that she is just as able to deliver in a lead role as she is able to amplify a small role.

The supporting cast makes good use of a number of colorful players who make the film engaging, pleasant, fun, and occasionally even thrilling. Paul Bettany (“A Beautiful Mind”, “The Da Vinci Code”) and Mark Strong (“RocknRolla,” “Body of Lies”) are entertaining as dueling advisors each yearning to whisper their wishes into Victoria’s ear. The long-absent Miranda Richardson (“Spider”) and Jim Broadbent (“Iris”) are great as the feuding mother of Victoria and reigning king William IV. The considerably less experienced Rupert Friend (“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”) makes for a fitting political and romantic match for the lovely Blunt as her cousin and love interest Prince Albert.

The cast is perhaps the strongest element of the film, but it’s still an impressive undertaking in other areas. The costumes and sets are magnificently evocative of the period, and the dialogue is also prim and proper. Beyond that, the story is a typical twisted tale of ascension to the throne complicated by the infighting and efforts of others to take power from the backseat. Victoria’s capacity to maintain her independence and rule despite the influence of so many others makes for a remarkable tale. Victoria comes out stronger as a result of it, and Blunt’s performance is a tour de force only a few fiery speeches short of the same power of Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” The film is decently fresh and fun, and the performances, especially the lead one from the charming Blunt, differentiate it from the overstuffed library of recent royal releases like “The Duchess” and make it, like Victoria herself, truly individual.


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