Emily Blunt shines as the tough-minded British queen in this lush, and even sexy, period romance
There’s a reason Queen Victoria, who ruled Great Britain from 1837 to 1901, inspired one of the Kinks’ most joyous songs: The band’s 1969 “Victoria” opens with the words “Long ago life was clean/Sex was bad and obscene,” a recognition of England’s stuffy, repressive past that sounds like a rebuke — until the point, in the next verse, where the songwriting brothers Ray and Dave Davies declare, with irony-free affection, “I was born, lucky me/In a land that I love.” Victoria, the country’s longest-reigning queen, spent much of the 19th century getting her country ready for the 20th, preparing, unwittingly but dutifully, for two destructive and horrific wars, for the collapse of the empire she herself helped build, even for free love and rock ‘n’ roll. No wonder the Kinks loved all she represented, flaws and attributes alike.
“The Young Victoria,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, with a screenplay by Julian Fellowes, isn’t technically a rock ‘n’ roll movie. But behind its historical-drama flourishes, its lush, painterly cinematography and its somewhat romanticized (but perhaps not too romanticized, at least in movie terms) love story, it has a rock ‘n’ roll heart. Emily Blunt plays the young queen, and the movie wastes no time outlining the challenges and power struggles that dogged her before and after her coronation. Her uncle, King William (played by Jim Broadbent, in a wonderful, woolly hairdo), isn’t going to be king forever, and Victoria is next in line for the throne. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent (a suitably thin-lipped Miranda Richardson), is scheming with her advisor, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), to seize whatever power Victoria will eventually have. [Read more…]