Young Victoria (2009)

Rated: PG for some mild sensuality, a scene of violence, and brief incidental language and smoking.
Length: 105 minutes
Grade: BB+BC=B
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $40 million (11 U.S., 16 Intl., 3 DVD)

Written by: Julian Fellowes (Vanity Fair, Gosford Park)
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee (First major film)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, and Paul Bettany
With: Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, and Julian Glover.

In this historical romance, Queen Victoria (not Queen Elizabeth!) must take the throne, discern difficult politics, and find a man to marry for the right reasons.

Entertainment Value: B
Whenever I watch historical films, I always wonder how much of it is accurate, and apparently most of this one is pretty faithful to real events. The only major difference is the shooting scene, which has artistic justification even if not quite factually correct. Emily Blunt is refreshing as the Queen, and Rupert Friend is quite good as Prince Albert. The drama of it all is quite good, but most of all the presentation is exquisitely beautiful. Fellowes knows how to write (Gosford Park was a gem), and his long history of British productions surely helped Vallee get the cinematography right.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence B, Language A-
PG is precisely correct. I can’t imagine anyone who would be interested in this movie who shouldn’t watch it. In fact, given the proclivity of Hollywood for ruining family movies with objectionable content, this is a wonderful rarity. There is an attempted assassination at the end, and a man is shot but does not die. There is one very mild love scene of a married couple, social drinking, and an occasional mild profanity. Call it PG-7, but that’s only because under-7s probably won’t care for it.

Significant Content: B
The duty of politicians or royalty is to make a difference in the world, but doing this takes savvy awareness of political realities. Thus, the key is to master the game until you can play it better than everyone else. Love is loyalty, and loyalty is love. Pride can keep us from seeing what is really going on, both with others and with ourselves. A man who has no work becomes ridiculous. True love can exist and is a very healthy thing for us to acknowledge.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
As I mentioned, the presentation is truly beautiful, and the events are largely constrained by the reality they represent. I must admit that part of my initial problem with this movie was that I didn’t realize Victoria wasn’t Elizabeth. Well, forgive me for being an easily confused American. I’m sorry. But obviously I’d never admit this error to anyone out loud. It’s far too embarrassing.

Discussion Questions:
~Why does Victoria have trouble taking the advice of people who tell her to watch out for Lord Melbourne? What tactics does he use to gain control of her? In his mind, is he being manipulative or is he just being prudent?
~One advisor mentions that politicians always resent monarchs because politicians are always only temporarily in power. What do you think of this? Would you find it useful to have royalty in America?
~Benevolence is having the characteristic of good will toward someone, and it has often been listed as the essential feature of a good leader or monarch. Who in this movie displays benevolence? Is benevolence without wisdom or prudence enough?
~One of the major conflicts in this movie is about the duties and authority of a husband who is not actually the king. How do you think the characters handle this situation?
~What image of marriage is presented in this movie as the ideal? History says that Victoria wore black for the remainder of her life after Albert died. Does this seem extreme or perfectly noble to you? What do you think of our culture’s advice to mourners to “move on” or “get on with your life?”

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The chess game with Albert.
~The king publicly humiliating Victoria’s mother.
~Melbourne praising her instincts, when the reality is that they just already fall in line with what he wants her to do.
~The attempted assassination. In reality, no one was shot, but does the depiction reveal something true about Albert nevertheless? Can art tell the truth even when it does not show reality accurately? Can something be accurate and yet lie? Is the job of art to be accurate or to be revealing?

Overall Grade: B
A perfectly fine British historical romance with excellent acting and beautiful scenery.

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