Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Young Victoria, A Review

The four of us went to see "The Young Victoria" tonight, because there is really rather a dearth of movies that all four of us want to (or can, even) see. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Honestly, I thought I knew all there was to know about Queen Victoria, and her times, just by osmosis. She was queen for practically ever, and what is there to learn about her romance with the man who became her husband, Prince Albert. Turns out, I was wrong--her early years were completely new to me.

George III was the longest reigning monarch before Victoria, and he lost the colonies, went mad, had his oldest son as his regent off and on until his death in 1820. His eldest son became George IV, and since he had no living legitimate heirs, the crown went to his brother William IV. Although William IV had 10 living children, they were all born out of wedlock with his longtime mistress and were not eligible to inherit. Victoria was the daughter of yet another of George III's sons, the Duke of Kent. Said duke died shortly before his father George III, and so Victoria was raised by her mother.

The Duchess of Kent was originally from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and could easily have returned home to Germany after the death of her husband. However, it was apparent even then that Victoria stood a good chance of inheriting the throne. George IV had no heirs, was estranged from his wife and she was presumably too old to have children. William IV took the throne at age 64 and had no living heirs either. So it looked possible that not only would Victoria inherit, she might also inherit while still a minor, which would probably mean her mother would act as regent.

Victoria's mother was advised, controlled, and possibly sleeping with an Irish military man named Sir John Conroy, and between them they kept the young Victoria isolated and dependent. Their plan was to keep her weak so that they would control her through regency in her youth, and possibly continue to control her even afterwards. The plan backfired, however, because Victoria resented and hated both Conroy and her mother, and because William IV managed to live until after Victoria's 18th birthday and no regency was necessary.

There is a wonderful scene at William's birthday reception when the King (ably portrayed by Jim Broadbent--that man is a treasure! Is there any movie he doesn't improve?) stands up and denounces Victoria's mother and announces his intention of living long enough to avoid a regency. He is visibly ailing, and the drama of the moment is tense because Americans probably don't know if there was a regency for Victoria or not. I sure didn't.

Jim Broadbent as William IV denouncing Victoria's mother. Check the gorgeous scenery!

As fascinating as the history is, the movie is a joy for its sheer beauty. The fabrics in the clothing and furnishings are gorgeously dyed and embroidered, the actors are all lovely to look at, the palaces are stunning and the gardens and landscapes are to die for. Emily Blunt makes Victoria young, vulnerable, determined, and very very human. Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne is much more pleasant to look at than as the albino Silas in The DaVinci Code--you can see how Victoria came to depend upon him and even fall a little in love with him. Rupert Friend makes the young Prince Albert look good, even in badly fitted plaid pants.

Would I recommend this film? Absolutely. Would I see it again? Without question! I'd watch it just to look at the costumes again and marvel at the gorgeous colors that get deeper and richer as the film progresses--I'd love to hear a commentary by the costume designer about the source and dramaturgy of Victoria's dresses alone.

No comments: