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September 28, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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The Young Vicoria

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Hollywood is an industry built on dreams. Tru fakt. From the very beginnings of the American studio system near the turn of the century, Los Angeles has become the home to thousands of people seeking insta-fame-and-fortune. While the majority of those starry-eyed young hopefuls are reduced to defeated service sector drones because of their futile quest, the precious few who break through owe everything to those dreams and images, and come to believe fully in the existence of them. This means that the majority of Hollywood’s output, crafted from the ground up by that same precious few, perpetuates an idealistic, romantic worldview—one where love conquers all, the underdog always wins, and you, too, can become a princess. This is where The Young Victoria comes in.

Produced by, of all people, Martin Scorsese, The Young Victoria tells the tale of the titular monarch. The film essentially boils the first twenty-five years of Victoria’s life down to her relationship with her future husband, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Any hinting at the type of monarch Victoria would become—one who oversaw and contributed to a period of great scientific, artistic, political and industrial progress in England—is treated as secondary to her being OMG LIEK TOTALI IN LUUUUUV WIT ALBERT. Like many period dramas produced by Hollywood, the life of young Victoria is made into little more than a predictable romance, occasionally interrupted by boring things like politics and court intrigue and assassination attempts. Victoria’s tumultuous relationship with her mother and Sir John Conroy is dwelled on for about twenty minutes, seemingly tolerated only because it makes Albert’s entrance a bit more romantic. The Bedchamber Crisis, the first major political scandal in Victoria’s career, seems to be included for the sole purpose of making Albert’s absence just that bit more unbearable for Victoria. It’s like a nineteenth-century version of Twilight, only without the sparkly vampires and the central relationship riddled with emotional abuse. It shamelessly guns for our heartstrings, attempting to forcefully pluck them into submission. Ultimately, The Young Victoria attempts to make us swoon over how romantic the film is every few minutes, and it does so with all the subtlety of a Workers Party protest (topical!).

That said, The Young Victoria isn’t bad. The film deals with the court intrigues and political issues that made up a substantial part of the young Victoria’s life with relative skill, and they are substantially more interesting than the vapid, simplistic central romance. Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction is aesthetically striking, the costume design is impeccable, and the period detail is exquisite (as per usual for a period drama). Furthermore, the acting is great, with Emily Blunt impressing in the relatively meaty lead role, and Paul Bettany and Mark Strong offering good support as Lord Melbourne and Sir John Conroy respectively.

However, all this doesn’t stop The Young Victoria from being a completely by-the-book period drama that deliberately downplays the achievements of a great woman. More unforgivably, it downplays Victoria’s achievements for the sole purpose of focusing on a bland romance that blatantly attempts to appeal to the inner romantic in us all. It’s entertaining fluff at best, but if you’re going to the cinema looking to appeal to that inner romantic, go watch Up instead.

The Young Vicoria
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Julian Fellowes
With Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson,
Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretschmann, Mark Strong and Jesper Christensen

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