Period pieces about royalty can often play out like chess games. The board is set as it always is with elaborately costumed pieces and these pieces are moved one by one into battle. Each piece moves in a specific fashion that is dictated by the rules of the game and cannot deviate from that plan. Experienced players know how to make this quiet game exciting while others move the pieces in predictable fashions toward an end that cannot come sooner. Sadly, Jean-Marc Vallee’s The Young Victoria is so conventional that he even has his young queen, played by Emily Blunt, playing an uneventful game of chess at one point. I swear, I thought up the metaphor before that though.
After delivering an incredible debut, C.R.A.Z.Y., in 2005, Vallee caught the attention of the international film scene. How else could he snag talent like Blunt or more importantly, executive producers like Martin Scorsese or Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York? What he put together though never rises above the level of functional. Victoria is a naïve but determined monarch. Naturally, every one around her, with either political or royal ties, wants to take advantage of her lack of experience. Victoria must reach into the crowd of hands constantly grabbing at her to take the one that she can trust. She can’t seem to figure out which one that is but it was pretty obvious from where I was sitting.
Blunt, who actually skips here and there to remind us that she really is a very young queen, does what she can with the part but to her detriment, screenwriter, Julian Fellowes, gives her very little to develop. Dress her up as fancy as you like, we’ve all seen this before and The Young Victoria becomes a reminder that Vallee is pretty young himself when it comes to directing.