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YOUNG VICTORIA, THE

SYNOPSIS:
On the eve of her 18th birthday and succession to the English throne, young Princess Victoria (Emily Blunt) is caught in a royal power struggle, with her mother the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richradson) and Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) on the wrong side, while Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) insinuates himself into her confidence, anxious to control her behind the scenes. But it is her blossoming relationship with Belgian Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) that will determine the strength of her reign.

Review by Louise Keller:
Control is the central theme of The Young Victoria, a sumptuous and appealing costume drama that allows us a glimpse of the young Princess' vulnerable journey to ruling monarch and wife. Emotions and heart play a big part in Julian Fellowes' script, which in the capable hands of Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.) involve us as surely as the pomp and ceremony at Buckingham Palace. History is used as a backdrop to the main event, being the relationships of Emily Blunt's Victoria. Blunt is lovely, delivering just the right mix of feisty, vulnerable and stubborn to engage us in her conflicted, manipulated world.

When we first meet Blunt's Victoria, she admits to feeling like a chess piece moved against her will. The undercurrent of power-play surrounds her, with her controlling Duchess mother (Miranda Richardson), who together with Mark Strong's scheming Sir John Conroy, is eager to assume the role of joint Regents to the throne. But Victoria shows her spirit from the start, refusing to sign the documents and smiles openly at the suggestion from Rupert Friend's dashing suitor Prince Albert to master the rules of the game in order to play it better than those around her.

Paul Bettany's Prime Minister Lord Melbourne becomes a convincing ally, until his own agenda becomes obvious. Is it consideration and helpfulness on his part to provide her with staff, or is it for his own political end? The film finally finds its way to the budding romance between the beautiful Victoria and charismatic Albert, who himself is a pawn in a game of control by his uncle King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann). Blunt and Friend have a nice chemistry as their characters manage to find a way of making their relationship work. Jim Broadbent may not have much screen time, but makes every moment count as the ailing King whose throne Victoria will inherit.

Patrice Vermette's production impresses through Hagen Bogdanski's lens and an oomphy score comprising Schubert, Handel and Strauss colours our emotional palettes. The film looks gorgeous with plush settings and stunning gowns, while Blunt photographs like a dream. I couldn't help thinking if they ever make a bio-pic about Princess Margaret, Emily Blunt would be perfect in the lead role. She even looks like her.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I suspect the real Victoria and the real Albert were not quite as handsome and glamorous as Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, which might make a difference to the tone of the film, but nevertheless, it's a fascinating story. I would like to see talented writer Julian Fellowes allowed to paint a clearer picture of the tumultuous power plays that provided the context for the years immediately before Victoria's coronation. We do get a whiff of it, but a mainstream movie doesn't have the time and space to detail the Byzantine world of the early 19th century royal English court. Pity, because it could be riveting drama.

Mark Strong is reliably assertive as the scheming, wilful Sir John Conroy, the baddest of the baddies in the story, while Miranda Richardson conveys some of the unsettling machinations that set Victoria against her mother, the Duchess of Kent. Paul Bettany is nuanced as Lord Melbourne, the politician who manoeuvres his friends into all the right Royal places around Victoria.

And Rupert Friend, always a tad reminiscent of Orlando Bloom, makes the most of challenging role as the young foreigner who has to wait for his chance to be invited into Victoria's life - against the odds, all the while putting up with the anxious prodding of his uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann). Excellent supporting cast includes Julian Glover as the Duke of Wellington, Jesper Christansen as Baron Stockmar and Jeanette Hain as the loyal Baroness Lehzen.

Pomp and circumstance are plentiful - though not overdone - as we worm our way into Victoria's court (and world) at the start of her reign. There is perhaps less clarity in the writing than desirable, but the production is spectacular and the historical setting at least offers a period not trampled by many cinematic feet before this film.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

YOUNG VICTORIA, THE (PG)
(UK/US, 2009)

CAST: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretchmann, Mark Strong, Jesper Christensen, Harriet Walter, Jeanette Hain, Julian Glover

PRODUCER: Sarah Ferguson, Tim Headington, Graham King, Martin Scorsese

DIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallée

SCRIPT: Julian Fellowes

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hagen Bogdanski

EDITOR: Jill Bilcock, Matt Garner

MUSIC: Ilan Eshkeri

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrice Vermette

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 27, 2009







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