July 30, 2010

Her Majesty

Congratulations to Emily Blunt on her marriage to John Krasinski earlier this month! Here's a belated post about her award-winning/multi-nominated performance as Queen Victoria. (I meant to post this when the DVD came out in April.)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are such fascinating historical figures, known for their great love and happy family life, and a successful, peaceful reign. Yet our main image of the sovereign is that of a heart-broken unsmiling widow in black; the remaining years of her monarchy that of a prudish, albeit prosperous society.

So it's refreshing to see The Young Victoria, the story of her childhood, accession to the throne of England, and the early years of her long reign. With an overprotective mother the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), the sheltered young princess grows up strong-minded and willful. She rebels against the undue influence that the Duchess's secretary Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) has on her mother. The main storyline follows King Leopold of Belgium's machinations to get his nephew Albert to marry his niece Victoria. Thankfully, we see romance and true love develop between the two. One of my favorite actresses, (the much-nominated) Emily Blunt plays the lead, with the handsome Rupert Friend as the sensitive, loving and intelligent Albert.

The supporting cast includes Paul Bettany as Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, an ally and advisor to the new monarch, Harriet Walter as the genial Queen Adelaide, and a delightful turn by Jim Broadbent as King William IV. Talk about awkward family reunions! During his birthday celebration, the inebriated King publicly chastises the Duchess of Kent for keeping his niece away from him and taking rooms at Kensington Palace.

The film is a visual feast, with all the pomp and pageantry you'd expect from a British period piece. The set and costume design are outstanding. But underneath all the gloss, it is a human story. We see the human drama of monarchies---the feel bad/feel good moment when you learn that your uncle or parent has passed away, and that you have now ascended to the throne. We see the failings and tears of an inexperienced queen, the courtship, the blossoming of a love so powerful that when the marriage is ended by death, the surviving partner mourns for the rest of her life. Knowing what happens to the Queen later makes viewing this film all the more poignant.

(photo from Impawards)


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