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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

The Young Victoria

Emily Blunt plays royalty in grand, tragic romance

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Queen Victoria was withdrawn and forbidding in old age, her name synonymous with the prevailing, late-19th-century posture of moral Puritanism and stuffy behavior. But in her youth she was regarded as a romantic figure, the storybook princess in a grand and tragic love story.

The Young Victoria depicts that romance, the consuming passion between the beautiful queen and her handsome consort, Prince Albert. As this season’s Anglophile Oscar contender (Masterpiece Theatre Division), the film is predictably opulent, with lavish interiors, gorgeous gowns and a Milky Way of sparkling jewels. Unlike several such films in recent years, however, the actors are comfortable and believable in their setting and the story stays clear of egregious historical blunders.

Even so, directors and screenwriters see the past through the eyes of their own time. In this film, Victoria (Emily Blunt) is a feminist heroine determined not to be a chessboard queen in a game played by the men around her. And in truth, she was born into a potentially treacherous situation as the female heir to a throne normally occupied by men in a world where men held most of the power. Even Albert (Rupert Friend) is initially sent to England on a covert mission to gain Victoria’s confidence for political ends. However, the human heart beats with its own rhythm. Contrary to anyone’s expectations, Victoria and Albert fell in love, and became partners in setting an example of social reform. The early grumblers against “Victorianism” included debauched noblemen and greedy tycoons, fearing that the royal couple might want to uplift the poor. Alas, Victoria largely retreated from public life after the early death of her husband.

The Victoria of this movie is a fetching and unfettered young woman who makes mistakes but learns quickly. Even Albert soon finds out that although he wears the pants, Victoria wears the crown.

The Young Victoria opens Dec. 25 at the Downer Theatre.
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