THE YOUNG VICTORIA:

Despite having her name associated with prudish sexual mores and repression in the 19th century, Britain’s Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt) started her long reign as a passionate, independently willful ruler undeterred by her inexperience and youth. In Julian Fellowes’ (GOSFORD PARK) screenplay, the title character is an empowered female with the audacity to choose her own ladies-in-waiting as well as a man to share her bed without regard for political consequences. As a period piece, this movie has the kind of art direction and set design needed to establish its setting and time. My attention during the film was drawn to the scenery dominating castles and palaces with their vast drawing rooms, endless corridors and grounds where shrubbery appears to have been sculpted into specific geometric shapes and patterns. Odd as it may sound, these elements held my attention rather than the sometimes poky storyline involving all the backroom political in-fighting and positioning that went on prior to Victoria’s ascension to the throne. Since this is a costume drama, mention should be made of the characters’ authentic and eye-catching wardrobe from Sandy Powell, whose name turns up quite a bit when I note excellence in this area. Blunt’s (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) performance is nicely subtle and underplayed in a role where she could have gone over the top. But she didn’t and that’s one reason I think she’s an actress who bears watching. Overall, VICTORIA has a sort of MASTERPIECE THEATER feel to it without any of the pretension or irritating musical interludes. At times, it’s a little stagey but for the most part it’s the sort of absorbing royal drama that the English deliver with panache and style. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

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