Friday, May 22, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Young Victoria (2009)

I was fortunate to be able to view THE YOUNG VICTORIA on British Airways recently, given that the film -- released in the U.K. in March 2009 -- still doesn't have a U.S. release date.

As it happened, I enjoyed this film so much that I watched it again ten days later on the flight home! I liked this film as much as any movie I've seen in the last few years, and I'm anxious to obtain it on DVD.

THE YOUNG VICTORIA stars Emily Blunt (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB) and Rupert Friend (2005's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Victoria and Albert found in each other true love and soulmates, despite the fact that theirs was a marriage engineered by Victoria's maternal uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann). (Leopold, as a matter of fact, was also Albert's paternal uncle, making Victoria and Albert first cousins.) The film depicts Victoria and Albert's romance and early married life against the backdrop of her accession to the throne at the age of 18.

Emily Blunt does an outstanding job capturing both Victoria's regal steeliness and her youthful uncertainty and isolation, as well as her temper. Rupert Friend is dashing and sympathetic as the man who finds much more than he hoped resulting from his uncle's dynastic machinations, and who then must deal with the awkwardness of being husband but not ruler.

The supporting cast includes Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister Victoria relied on in the early years of her reign; Miranda Richardson as Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent; Jim Broadbent as King William; Harriet Walter as Queen Adelaide; and Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy.

I have spent a little time this week reviewing a couple of biographies on my shelves, including QUEEN VICTORIA: A PERSONAL HISTORY by Christopher Hibbert, and was pleasantly surprised to realize that even some minor details which I assumed were modern dramatic license (Albert helping Victoria put on her stockings?!) are actually documented as fact. The most glaring inaccuracy I found concerns the assassination attempt on the Queen when she and Albert were newlyweds; although Albert protected the Queen, it did not have the same...impact...on Albert as depicted in the film.

The film does a great deal to dispel the longstanding old myth that Queen Victoria was a prude; indeed, the Queen was a very happily married woman, though she regretted that consequently she had to endure childbirth nine times. (Motherhood, unfortunately, was not Victoria's strong point.)

On my second viewing of the film, I was amused to realize that King Leopold's Belgian palace was actually Britain's Blenheim Palace, ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the Churchill family. When King Leopold had a discussion in his library, it was actually Blenheim's Long Library -- easily distinguished by the large statue of Britain's Queen Anne at one end (click link for photo) -- which I had stood in just 48 hours previously. Blenheim's exteriors are used as well.

As it happens, the week we visited Blenheim the palace hosted filming of Emily Blunt's new movie, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, in which she plays the Princess of Lilliputia. Jack Black plays Gulliver. (Okaaaaay...!) I'll write more about Blenheim in a future post.

Royal trivia: Victoria and Albert's direct descendant, Princess Beatrice of York (currently 5th in line to the throne) can be glimpsed as a lady-in-waiting in the film's opening coronation scenes.

The film was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. It runs 100 minutes.

THE YOUNG VICTORIA is very highly recommended.

Update: I posted additional thoughts in July.


Blogger Missy said...

I'd like to see this. I wrote paper on young Victoria in AP European History years ago. I guess if it doesn't have a theater run here, I'll have to attempt converting my DVD player to a 0-region mode.


10:57 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

This looks absolutely exquisite. I can't wait until it's available in the states!

6:39 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I so hope this gets a release date soon. Also, I was thinking Gulliver's Travels sounds interesting until I saw Jack Blacks name. Ugh.

7:46 PM  

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