Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/USA, 2009. GK Films. Screenplay by Julian Fellowes. Cinematography by Hagen Bogdanski. Produced by Sarah Ferguson, Tim Headington, Graham King, Martin Scorsese. Music by Ilan Eshkeri. Production Design by Patrice Vermette. Costume Design by Sandy Powell. Film Editing by Jill Bilcock, Matt Garner. Academy Awards 2009. Golden Globe Awards 2009. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2009. Toronto International Film Festival 2009. Washington Film Critics Awards 2009.
Having lost her father in infancy, princess Victoria grows up in a cage with golden bars under the careful watch of her politically scheming mother (Miranda Richardson) and her mother’s even more viciously ambitious advisor (Mark Strong). As Victoria is next in line for the throne, and King William (Jim Broadbent) isn’t looking to last much longer, her guardians wish her to sign a regency agreement that will allow them to rule for her until she is 25 years of age (should she be placed on the throne sooner than that). Young, but not naïve, Victoria (Emily Blunt) resists despite all manner of threat, and thankfully finds herself ascending to the world’s most powerful position not long after her eighteenth birthday, free from any need of tutelage. Her problems only become more complex, however, as she must figure out who is worthy of trust, and how she should rule a quarter of the globe despite the disadvantage of her youth. Then there is the question of marriage, and it looks like her handsome cousin Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) is winning not only her admiration but her heart as well. This wonderfully opulent period drama, written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y.) does such a wonderful job for the first two-thirds of the film that you’ll simply never want it to end. Blunt is an exceptionally strong actress, the confidence of her razor-sharp line delivery on show as she lays down the law to her subjects with confidence, while at the same time revealing a frightened heart beneath her pronouncements. Shame, then, that the film concludes so weakly; after displaying the rocky road to the throne, plus the scandals that Victoria outlived in her earliest days of reign, the film never manages to reach much of a climax before it concludes (not to mention spicing it up by inventing things that didn’t happen). Perhaps more detail about the eventual outcome of her astonishing career would have helped, not just quickly inserted end titles that describe Victoria’s many years on the throne (she was monarch longer than anyone in English history) and her contributions to the nation’s years of reforms in various fields. All the same, it is a rich and memorable experience, and Sandy Powell’s dazzling costumes are no small part of the pleasure. Harriet Walter has a marvelous supporting role as Queen Adelaide.