(director: Jean-Marc Vallee; screenwriter: Julian Fellowes; cinematographer: Hagan Bogdanski; editor: Jill Bilcock; music: Ilan Eshkeri; cast: Emily Blunt (Queen Victoria), Rupert Friend (Prince Albert), Paul Bettany (Lord Melbourne), Miranda Richardson (Duchess of Kent), Jim Broadbent (King William), Mark Strong (Sir John Conroy), Thomas Kretschmann (King Leopold), Jesper Christensen (Baron Stockmar), Harriet Walter (Queen Adelaide, aunt and key adviser to Victoria), Duke of Wellington (Julian Glover), Michael Maloney (Sir Robert Peel), Genevieve O’Reilly (Lady Flora Hastings), Michaela Brooks (Victoria at 11); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Graham King/Tim Headington/Martin Scorsese/Sarah Ferguson; Apparition; 2009-UK/USA-in English with some German with English subtitles)

“If the viewer favors such BBC type royalty genre films, they will more than likely bow down in appreciation to this appealing one.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another British royalty film adhering to the genre’s conventions that gives the public what it wants in its inside look into palace machinations. It can be challenged over certain historical liberties it takes, though it seems to be accurate enough for a mainstream audience. It’s a polished chronicling of Britain’s youngest and oldest queen–Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt)–who reigned from 1837-1901 and whose first language was German. She took the crown at 18 and ruled for 63 years (longer than any other British monarch), until her death at age 81. The costume drama is set right before her coronation and a few years into her reign, after her marriage to her German cousin, Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). It’s co-produced by the Duchess of York.

French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee (“Los Locos”/”C.R.A.Z.Y.”) and writer Julian Fellowes (who leans to the conservative side in his writing) make it rewarding as a sympathetic love story, also showing the headstrong teen Queen going from a young innocent with girlish charms to a savvy political in-fighter. It’s regally acted by the talented ensemble cast, the costume drama’s production values are high and the story is pleasingly told. If the viewer favors such BBC type royalty genre films, they will more than likely bow down in appreciation to this appealing one.

We begin in earnest to follow Victoria one year before her coronation, where she feels like a prisoner in the palace. The child is caught between the intrigues of two royal uncles and becomes a prisoner of protocol and social rulesdue to her unpopular widowed German mother, the Dutchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) and her strongarmed adviser and suitor, the ambitious Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), who tries bullying the future Queen by trying to force her to sign a “Regency Order” that will appoint him as her regent until she’s 25. The elderly, ornery and sickly King William IV (Jim Broadbent) is the brother of her military officer father; he has no children and Victoria is the next in line for the throne, something he favors as he says so in a peculiarly loud way at a state banquet celebrating his birthday.

Victoria holds her ground against her domineering mom and the bullying adviser by refusing to go along with their schemes, while her cunning uncle in Belgium, King Leopold (Thomas Kretschmann), is plotting to get his poor nephew, Prince Albert, to marry Victoria for political convenience. The lad is coached in Victoria’s tastes in books and music, and when visiting her only gains her favor when he drops his deceptive act. This leads to a long-distance letter-writing friendship. Meanwhile the clever, devious and much older than Victoria politician, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), becomes her adviser through manipulation; that is, until he gives her advice that makes her unpopular with her subjects (it led to riots because the young Queen was perceived to favor the Whig Party and their leader Lord Melbourne over the newly elected Prime Minister, the statesmanlike Tory Party leader Sir Robert Peel-Michael Maloney). The Queen finally follows her own heart and gives in to the patient courting of Albert, who is the same age but for a few months. They marry in 1840 and when a crazed assassin tries to shoot Victoria while she rides in a coach, Albert is wounded as he dives in front of her to take the bullet (though historically it has not been confirmed that he was wounded) and thereby proves his everlasting love (giving way to a happy marriage for twenty years and forty years of widowhood).

Blunt gives both a perky and dignified performance, keeping us guessing about her love triangle relationship with the slippery Lord Melbourne (who in real life was in his fifties at the time, but here appears much younger) and with the sincere social reform minded Albert. The sumptuous fairy-tale like film, that feels like the beginning of a mini-series, ends on a happy note for a plucky poor little rich kid who had an abused childhood, and gives the iconic Victoria an appealing human dimension from those later images of her as the unsmiling black-clad Widow of Windsor.

REVIEWED ON 11/30/2009 GRADE: B+