The Young Victoria

19 August 2009

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Last night was clearly Victorian Night at Guillotine Towers as I followed Desperate Romantics with The Young Victoria, which I have been intending to watch for quite a while. Dave isn’t a fan of costume dramas (this is an understatement, although he LOVES Desperate Romantics, probably because it doesn’t involve any history or art) and he was at work and so I seized my opportunity.

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I’m going to try to write a proper review, but actually I am just looking for an excuse to post pictures of pretty dresses, of which there were many in The Young Victoria. Oh, the dresses. If you are the sort of person who mutes the sound, puts on music and then watches films JUST for the dresses, stately homes and fan fluttering then this is the film for YOU as the costuming was sumptuously wonderful.

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Now, I hope I am not making presumptions here but I imagine when a lot of people think of Queen Victoria, the image of a black clad, wrinkled little dwarf woman with a dog’s bottom mouth and a weird white thing on her head pops into your mind so seeing her as a vibrant young woman with a bent for romance and a penchant for bright colours and dancing might be a bit of a culture shock and possibly shake the very foundations of what it means to be British.

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Fear not, this is not some odd Hollywood imagining of fact, luridly hued and over sentimentalised in a vain attempt to appeal to modern sensibilities! The real Queen Victoria was actually a bit of a minx in her youth – as if the fact that she had nine children with Prince Albert wasn’t clue enough! And you don’t mourn someone so deeply and for such an extended period of time (FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE n fact) if you aren’t at least of a slightly romantic bent.

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The film itself makes short work of Victoria’s troubled childhood at black beetle infested Kensington Palace, choosing instead to begin with the final year before she became Queen, when her mother and the villainous Sir John Conroy got into a bit of a panic at the prospect of her imminent eighteenth birthday, at which point they would lose the opportunity to rule through her as regents. They must have been a bit stupid really as they failed to notice just how supremely strong willed Victoria was and how quick she was to take immense dislikes to people and instead of cajoling her sweetly, they bullied and threatened her and tried to spread rumours that she was too immature to reign.

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Luckily, pretty much everyone outside their little enclave knew that it was all hogwash and even more fortunately, her uncle the King managed to hang on until she was eighteen before kicking the bucket and leaving her the throne. The scene in which she becomes Queen was emotional and quite moving; you can just feel her relief that it is all over.

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I have to admit that I really enjoyed The Young Victoria. It isn’t as brash or dreamlike as Marie Antoinette, although it has a similar sumptuous feel and attention to aesthetic detail. Nor is it as dramatic and edgy as Elizabeth. To my mind it felt more like an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel: one about a young girl who loses her father at an early age and is raised extremely strictly by a domineering, dimwitted mother and her evil ‘advisor’ before coming into her fortune and marrying her rather dull cousin. Actually, that DOES sound like an Austen plot doesn’t it?

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Basically, if you like costume dramas then you will love this. The story is a bit plodding because, beyond her ill treatment in the early parts and the not quite true to facts assassination attempt later on, not very much happens. It sometimes felt like one of those dramatised documentaries that are so popular at the moment and I kept waiting for Lady Antonia Fraser or Simon Schama or some other pundit (but please GOD NO not Carolly Erickson) to pop up and start rattling on about stuff and having passive aggressive pops at each other. Not that THAT ever happens. No.

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The romance between Victoria and Albert is handled well and there is no fudging the fact that they were fundamentally set up. Mind you, as far as blind dates go, Victoria really hit the jackpot as far as Protestant European princes go. I’m never sure about Rupert Friend to be honest – he looks like a more sinister, less simpering Orlando Bloom, which may be a good thing for some but not so much for me.

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On the other hand, nothing could be more exquisite than Emily Blunt as Victoria. She is probably too pretty (luminously gorgeous in fact) and thin to be an accurate portrayal but who really cares about that sort of thing? I have been a fan of Emily Blunt ever since she played a pouty, winsome Catherine Howard in Henry VIII and then an icy, brittle Linnet Doyle in Death on the Nile so it is good to see her getting starring roles. Even if she is really dating The Cute One From The Office.

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Anyway, I have now run out of things to say, which is good as I have almost run out of nice pictures as well. In short, I really liked this film and would recommend it to any fellow costume drama fans especially if they are easily embarrassed and like to watch films with their parents as there is NOTHING here that could cause you to blush or, worse, pretend that you don’t know what they are doing. Which is a bit of a rarity really.

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Of course, I ruined Victorian Night shortly afterwards by putting Twilight on for the bazillionth time as Dave hates that too. I can’t help myself – I only watch it for that first bit with Edward Cullen, when he walks into the school cafeteria for the first time. Oh wow. I mistyped that as ‘oh woe’. Either will do.

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