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September 22, 2016

‘The Young Victoria’ a new hit

Though this story played out around 150 years ago, director Jean-Marc Vallée accurately captures the glamour and opulence that surrounded one of Britain’s most popular royals in “The Young Victoria.” Emily Blunt stars as the title character, a young princess trying to assure her inner circle, her people and herself that she deserves the power she is entitled to by birthright.

Written by screenwriter Julian Fellowes ( “Gosford Park,” “Tomorrow Never Dies”), “The Young Victoria” begins with a long, rather rushed narration by Blunt (an underappreciated star of “Devil Wears Prada”) about the rules and regulations Victoria, as the heir to the British throne, had to adhere to while growing up. As if that weren’t bad enough, she had to face badgering by her own mother (Miranda Richardson) and her chief attendant, the delightfully wicked Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), who believe that Victoria is too young too rule.

Richardson and Strong have great chemistry in their roles. Their characters faced the rumor that there was an affair going on while living an aspect of their lives that played out on screen without being directly implied. Their relationship seems to be stronger than the one that develops between Victoria and her cousin and future husband, Albert, who was sent by Belgium’s King Leopold to seduce her, so that their family could be instilled into yet another European monarchy.

Rupert Friend, as Albert, portrays his tortured prince extremely well. Albert is someone who’s being made to do things against his will, but who lets his personality shine though and ends up enjoying his task. He grows to even enjoy being used as a pawn, ironically, because he and Victoria first bond over chess. This budding courtship, however, is a low point of the otherwise great film.

In “The Young Victoria,” the courtship between Victoria and Albert is extremely awkward, especially in the first stages. Though it is probably supposed to be stilted in this way, it should provide for many a guffaw.

All cringe worthy scenes are forgotten as the story progresses and the princess becomes a queen, even more elegant settings are presented. At each location, from Parliament to Buckingham Palace, the set decorator Maggie Gray (who has been nominated for an Oscar for her work) sure had a big task on her hands- one which she completed with flying colors. The sets on “The Young Victoria” look as real as their legitimate counterparts.

Victoria still has to face other obstacles throughout the film, in the forms of a reconciliation with her mother, fights with her husband, pregnancy, riots and yet another advisor that tries to take a piece of her power. Emily Blunt does this fairly well, though she doesn’t really look like a teen, depicts Victoria with a palpable air of royalty, but also with the charm of a young, excited woman.

Rounding out the requirements for a great movie (one that was obviously snubbed for a best picture Academy Award nomination), the cinematography was near perfect. “The Young Victoria” featured many sweeping shots of the palatial settings and basic camera angles make the viewer feel as if they know exactly what’s going on. Sometimes the most important storylines are happening in the backdrop, shown clearly in order to get all angles of the story.

What makes this movie all the more fascinating is that, with the exceptions of some normal Hollywood flourishes, this time in history played out very similarly to the story in “The Young Victoria.” A young girl was virtually attacked for her power, hunted and pursued like an animal, yet she manages to beat her attackers, stay in touch with her subjects and even find a mate in the process. This film gives good insight to aristocratic life with grace and beauty, and makes it almost appealing to us rebellious Americans. Democracy will, of course, still win out, but the cast and crew of “The Young Victoria” make a true royal story seem like a fairytale.

Kate MacDonald can be reached at kaitlynm@student.umass.edu.

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