Magazine article The Spectator

Royal Offensive

Magazine article The Spectator

Royal Offensive

Article excerpt

The Young Victoria

PG, Nationwide

The Young Victoria stars Emily Blunt and is based, apparently, on an idea first pitched by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York: 'I know! Let's do a film about Queen Victoria, but when she was young, and call it "The Young Victoria!".' She is listed as a producer as is, bizarrely, Martin Scorsese, who probably said, 'Yes, let's!', if only to get her out of his Winnebago.

Actually, that's mean, particularly as I happen to admire the Duchess of York and think she has a lot more oomph than any of the other royals. Still, you would want her out of your Winnebago, wouldn't you? Let's not get carried away here.

So, anyway, Julian Fellowes was commissioned to write the script (who else, my dears, who else? ), then the director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y. ) came on board, and, now, here it is, starring not just Ms Blunt but also a good sampling of the usual suspects when it comes to this kind of thing: Miranda Richardson, Harriet Walter, Jim Broadbent and Mark Strong but not Dame Judi Dench who, presumably, saw the Duchess of York coming and pretended to be out. 'Tell her I've gone to Asda!' No offence, but you would, wouldn't you? And it was a good call. Dame Judi didn't miss out on much.

Look, this is a well-groomed film, and an earnest film, full of the things you will like if you like this kind of film -- you know, sumptuous frocks and sumptuous palaces, all topped off with fat dollops of political intrigue -- but it somehow fails to convey any real tension. It's lovely to look at, but also peculiarly inert and leaden. Seriously, I can remember episodes of The House of Eliott that were more exciting.

It's a pity because, as it goes, the idea isn't a bad idea. Victoria wasn't always that battleaxe in black with the jowls of Timothy Spall, so what was she like as a young woman?

Well, the film opens in 1836, when she is 17 and is being kept a virtual prisoner by her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Richardson), and her mother's bullying, ambitious adviser, Sir John Conway (Strong), and concludes in 1840, when she has ascended the throne and has married Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) of 'Albert Hall' fame and, of course, Albert Square. …

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