With impressive stitch-work as far as the eye can see and more than a few object-based leisure-time interludes (an early yo-yo prototype appears at court), The Young Victoria holds a minor miniature-rooms interest; the drama, a prestige-picturization of the "Early reign" section of Queen Victoria's Wikipedia page, is not so compelling. The palace intrigue occasions a great deal of shouting and across-the-boudoir finger-pointing, and young lovers Victoria (Emily Blunt) and Albert (Rupert Friend) go through ecstatic moments in their courtship, but there is nothing rousing about this film. The Young Victoria, written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y.), merely induces a kind of luxury stupor.In telling of the early days of Queen Victoria's reign, Fellowes and Vallee seek to reveal the bleeding heart and heaving bosom of a monarch whose name, at least in adjectival form, is still synonymous with overbearing prudishness. Their Victoria mentions the plight of the workers at regular intervals, and after an off-screen romp on her marriage bed declares, "Now I am quite married." Fellowes' dialogue is a good deal stronger in these Victoria-at-play passages than during the scenes concerning raw politics. "You are confusing stubbornness with strength," the Dowager Queen Adelaide (Harriet Walter) informs Victoria among some topiaries. Aside from a handful of uncomfortable attempts at giving the proceedings a slight stylistic edge—a couple of freeze frames, a suddenly (and clumsily) impressionistic sound design during Victoria's coronation ceremony—Vallee's approach to the material is mostly straightforward. He lets not only the art direction breathe, but also the actors, a good thing since the cast—also including Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent, and Miranda Richardson, among others—is talented and surprisingly game. Blunt acquits herself well in the lead role, but especially memorable is Bettany as Victoria's chief advisor, Lord Melbourne, an aggressive political realist with barely submerged romantic feelings for the queen. Melbourne, as played by Bettany, has the tendency to run his hand over the back of his head, a tic that suggests his suspicion that someone has drawn a target there. This is a nice detail. For more, see the upholstery.
Opens December 18