Everyone loves a good royal romance. At age fourteen I had a huge poster of Prince William hanging on my bedroom wall, I’m not ashamed to admit. Though there are those who believe the monarchy is an affront to human dignity (and we can see their point) we here at Petticoat Junction never let that get in the way of our fantasy life.
But we digress.
Happily for the fourteen-year-old inside us, The Young Victoria focuses on the relationship between Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. They were in love, like, toad-ally; their marriage was a partnership based on friendship and mutual trust, with each promising to take care of the other — it’s the modern ideal, really. We’re not sure if this is an accurate depiction of their relationship, but it’s difficult to resist the pair’s chemistry. Very cute, although Victoria doesn’t let Albert forget who wears the crown and who’s just the spouse.
Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend in the main roles are really, really ridiculously good looking. Blunt has banished the predominant image of Victoria as a dour widow (think Mrs. Brown) and replaced her with this young, pretty, feisty royal.
However, there’s a conspicuous lack of drama in the movie. That’s surprising for a film about such a major historical player. As the film paints it, the major problem in Victoria’s life — her mother’s and Sir John Conroy’s attempts to gain control of the monarchy — is resolved halfway through the movie when Victoria turns eighteen, the king dies, and she becomes queen. After that, it’s pretty much smooth sailing. Yes, she suffers a popularity crisis brought on by her over-reliance on Lord Melbourne, as well as an assassination attempt. But these troubles roll smoothly off the young queen’s back. There is no pivotal moment, no moment of epiphany, and most importantly no real change or growth in Victoria’s personality. The assassination attempt comes after a spat with Albert; he takes the bullet for her and she feels sick at almost losing him. But all is soon well.
We sat watching the film waiting for Lord Melbourne to fall from Victoria’s graces. Or hell, even the results from a report on the working poor she had commissioned. (We pictured the couple, united together in a crusade to better the conditions of London’s poorest.) But the whole point of the movie seems to be that she and her husband were in love….and that’s it. We were only somewhat diverted.
Lastly: let’s talk about the clothes. No expenses spared there. Victoria’s decadent gowns were designed by master costumer Sandy Powell; they froth with lace, ribbons, and flowers. What we wouldn’t give to waltz around the house in one of these like some decked-out cupcake! Depending on our mood we sometimes find the fashion of this era a little too over-the-top. Perhaps it’s the dresses’ full, leg-of-mutton sleeves, and the tendency to plait the hair down the middle — at times with those juvenile poufs of sausage curls on each side. Compared to the clean, more minimalist lines of the early-1800s Empire style, 1830s-40s fashion can look fussy and fastidious and baroque. But here the dresses are captivating and altogether beautiful. They bring some much-needed drama to an otherwise tame film.