From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Young Victoria - C+

Rated PG for some mild sensuality, a scene of violence, and brief incidental language and smoking, 100 minutes

"The Young Victoria" - lush but boring production

"The Young Victoria," the new film about England's Queen Victoria, is one of the year most beautiful productions. It's handsome, extensively detailed and features some of the most ornate sets and costumes seen in recent memory, not to mention that it's sublimely acted by all involved. In spite of this and its pedigreed history, it's all rather a dull affair, particularly if you know the real story.

"The Young Victoria" tells the story of how Victoria (Emily Blunt) ascended the throne, the early years of her reign and her romance with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). She certainly had some challenges along the way, including an unstable Uncle and King (Jim Broadbent), a controlling mother (Miranda Richardson) and her mother's domineering adviser Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong, also seen as the villain in "Sherlock Holmes"), not to mention ambitious in-laws (Thomas Kretschmann as King Leopold). With the help of a trusted friend and assistant, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), among many others, she would have the longest reign of any female monarch in British history.

"The Young Victoria" is an elegant but tedious affair, another stuffy part of English history that's fascinating in the history books but less so to watch on screen. That's not to say that it isn't interesting or important, after all, Victoria's reign is indeed one of the most important and longest (the Victorian era is named for her after all) but some of it's confusing, boring and a few historical elements changed for cinematic purposes. The screenplay by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park") expects us to know many details of the story, and unevenly alternates between costumed political thriller and romanticized story between Victoria and Albert.

As expected with something of this nature, the best thing about "The Young Victoria" is the ornate, detailed costumes (some of them so expensive they had to be insured) and the sublime acting from Blunt in the title role and a gallery of esteemed British character actors. Strong is particularly slimy as Conroy, Richardson is strong as the Duchess of Kent, while Oscar-winner and character actor Broadbent is strong as the unstable King William. The filmmakers also chose the actors well for their parts, as all of them, especially Strong, remarkably resemble their real-life counterparts (though Blunt is prettier than the real Victoria).

The political aspects of "The Young Victoria" are far more interesting than the stale Albert-Victoria romance, which takes precedence in the film's more banal second act (with the exception of an exciting assassination attempt made far more dramatic by screenwriter Fellowes than what actually happened). The film's unlikely producing team may be even more exciting: Sarah, Duchess of York (Fergie) and noted director Martin Scorsese.

For some, the handsome, well-acted but stuffy "The Young Victoria" may be required viewing due to its importance in history and legacy that Victoria left behind, but for many others, it's required viewing only if there's nothing else left to watch.