PJ and I recently saw Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt as Victoria. The movie depicts her life just before ascending to the throne and explores her complicated relationships with the people who are all fighting to control her as she prepares to assume her duties as queen. Here’s the trailer:

PJ and I were both a little surprised by the fact that we each liked this film more than we thought we would. What little I had heard about the film made it sound like people were rather underwhelmed by it. But I saw it as a more than capable biography of this woman’s rise to power, one that interestingly explored the difficulties of becoming queen at such a young age.

Three aspects of the film really stood out to me. First, Blunt is excellent in the title role. What I liked most about her performance is that the film was not afraid to make Victoria human. I would think that it would be tempting to make her perfect, likable, and completely on the ball from the beginning of her reign. That’s not what this film does. Instead, we see a Victoria who is naive, easily manipulated by men in particular, and much to full of herself to listen to the right people around her and truly devote herself to the bigger picture. Blunt is great at making the young queen sympathetic even when we want to slap her.

Second, I was really impressed by Rupert Friend. His biggest role to date has been as Mr. Wickham in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, a role that I don’t think he was particularly suited for. He’s much better in the smaller role of George Downs in The Libertine, a relatively awful movie, however.

His part here as Prince Albert was a bit of a revelation, I think, as it gives him a chance to act outside of the role of being a cad or the love object (think Cheri). This movie proves that he’s more than just a hot body. He’s an actor. I really liked him in this role perhaps in part because it isn’t a sexy one. He’s very good at making Albert well-intentioned and conflicted at the same time. He’s proud and in love. He loves Victoria but he also wants to be her equal. It’s a meaty role, and Friend does an excellent job with it.

And finally, I loved the look of the film. The cinematography, costumes, hair, set decoration, and everything else looks great. We really get a sense that we’re in the nineteenth century without ever feeling that the camera is lingering on a chair or someone’s wig just to make us see all the effort that went into the look of the film. I’ve seen one other film by this director, Jean-Marc Vallée. He’s one to watch. I like that in this movie just tends to stand back and let the story tell itself rather than throw in a lot of gimmicks. The result is a beautiful film.

Overall, I liked this movie more than I thought I would. I recommend it.

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