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A 'Victoria' that is for all eras

Published January 19. 2010 05:00PM

"The Young Victoria" is a magnificent film on multiple levels.

There is royal intrigue over the ascension of Victoria (Emily Blunt) to the throne. In 1838, the 17-year-old Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), in league with Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), schemes to establish regency rule to prevent Victoria from becoming queen.

Jockeying for position is Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), who is enamored of Victoria. Her uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent), backs Victoria as his successor and carries the day.

There is also an international agenda. England's Victoria is to marry Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) of Germany, thus solidifying power over rival nations.

Love and marriage didn't always go together in the horse and carriage era. However, Victoria and Albert, when they agree to marry, create strong personal and political bonds, a bulwark against preening banner headlines and political cartoons of a nascent Fleet Street press.

After Victoria's coronation at age 18, she and Albert jointly ruled the United Kingdom in a constitutional monarchy for 20 years, championing education, welfare, industry and the arts (notably 1851's Great Exhibition). Albert died of typhoid at age 42. Victoria set out his clothes every morning until she died at age 81. She is the longest-reigning English monarch.

Apart from the fictional stories in movies like "Enchanted" (2007), "The Princess Diaries" (2001) and "The Princess Bride" (1987), "The Young Victoria" tells the story of a real-life queen and her prince. Victoria was known as the "grandmother or Europe" with her nine children occupying royal halls from France to Norway to Russia and more.

Blunt, an actress drama Golden Globe nominee, has the right countenance for the role of Victoria. As bespeaks her name, her face becomes a rather flat, somber instrument and her body a castle wall protecting inner reserve and strength. "Live alone inside your head without showing your real feelings," she is advised. Victoria suspects she's only a pawn in the game. Even so, Albert counsels she must master the game of chess, a metaphor for life at court.

Only when Victoria lets down her guard to Albert does the mask drop away and she's as giddy as a school girl. They are delightfully, insufferably in love. Scenes between the young royals are romantic and rapturous.

"The Young Victoria," directed in the style of a Hollywood studio era historic costume drama by Jean-Marc Vallee ("C.R.A.Z.Y.," "Loser Love") is based on a screenplay by Julian Fellowes ("Vanity Fair," "Separate Lies" and 2001 screenplay Oscar for "Gosford Park").

The movie is a visual feast. Gowns are exquisite (Victoria's rose-bedecked coronation gown is divine.). Architecture - Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey is grandly impressive. Interiors are beyond elegant. The English gardens are lovely.

While Americans may still ponder if a Madame President is possible, here was Queen Victoria centuries ago, standing her ground. "You thought that I was a woman to be passed over," she bristles. Certainly not. When she came of age, she inaugurated the Victorian Era.

"The Young Victoria": MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.) for some mild sensuality, a scene of violence and brief incidental language and smoking; Genre: Drama, History, Romance; 1 hour 45 minutes; Distributed by GK Films.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Sinead O'Connor sings "Only You" during "The Young Victoria" closing credits.

Box Office, Jan. 15: There appears to be no stopping "Avatar," No. 1 again five weeks in a row and still doing blockbuster numbers, $41.3 million, and $491.7 million, five weeks. "Avatar's Golden Globe drama and director for James Cameron should keep the momentum going.

"The Book of Eli," starring Denzel Washington, opened strongly at No. 2, with $31.6 million. "The Lovely Bones" went into wide release, No. 3, with $17 million, $17.5 million, six weeks.

4. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," $11.5 million, $192.5 million, four weeks; 5. "Sherlock Holmes," $9.8 million, $180 million, four weeks, should get a boost from Robert Downey Jr.'s actor musical-comedy Golden Globe; 6. "The Spy Next Door" opened poorly for Jackie Chan, with $9.7 million; 7. "It's Complicated," $7.6 million, $88.2 million, four weeks, might get a bump from Meryl Streep's actress musical-comedy Golden Globe for "Julie & Julie" and Alec Baldwin's TV musical-comedy Golden Globe for "30 Rock"; 8. "Leap Year," $5.8 million, $17.5 million, two weeks; 9. "The Blind Side," $5.5 million, $226.7 million, nine weeks, might stay in the Top 10 after Sandra Bullock's actress drama Golden Globe;10. "Up in the Air," $5.4 million, $62.8 million, seven weeks, also might stick around. "The Young Victoria" was No. 15, $995,000, $5.5 million, five weeks, but was only on 418 screens for a $2,285 per-screen average, compared to, for example, the $2,591 per-screen average for "Up in the Air" on 2,107 screens.

"Avatar" had the top per-screen average of $12,572 on 3,285 screens, which includes higher-priced 3-D and Imax tickets.

Golden Globes: Look for a Golden Globe bounce for the film, "Crazy Heart," for which Jeff Bridges won an actor drama Golden Globe and T. Bone Burnette and Ryan Bingham won a song Golden Globe (for "The Weary Kind").

"Crazy Heart," No. 19 at the box office, had a $14,000 per-screen average and $658,000 on only 47 screens for the Jan. 15 weekend, and $2 million, after five weeks, and should go into wide release.

"Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," for which Mo'Nique won a supporting actress Golden Globe, was No. 18, $230, 000 on 228 screens, with $44.7 million after 11 weeks.

"The White Ribbon," which won a foreign language film Golden Globe, was No. 28, with $81,600 on only 12 screens, with $277,000 after three weeks.

Oscar watch: The annual Golden Globes is a barometer of Oscar nominees and winners, often as much for those who don't win. This year's Oscar race is complicated by the picture expansion to 10 rather than five nominees.

The Golden Globe shutout of "The Hurt Locker," "Brothers," "Invictus," "Nine," "The Last Station," "A Single Man" and "(500) Days of Summer," despite multiple nominations, and the sole win for "Precious," "Up in the Air" "Inglourious Basterds" (supporting actor Golden Globe for Christopher Waltz ), despite those films' several nominations, could indicate indifference among Hollywood insiders to these critically-acclaimed films.

Then again, the Golden Globes is often more of a popularity contest - witness and "The Hangover" musical-comedy Golden Globe and wins for "Avatar" and Oscar voting sometimes heads in opposite directions.

One thing seems certain: James Cameron is again positioned to become King of the Movie World with "Avatar," which could rack up a load of Oscars as his "Titanic" did before in.

Also, "Up" is now the clear favorite in the Oscar animated film category, with animated film and score Golden Globes (for Michael Giacchino).

The movie awards season is always entertaining. This year, it may even be more fun that a barrel of Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jeffrey Zucker.

Unreel, Jan. 22: Harrison Ford stars in "Extraordinary Measures" as a researcher developing a potential cure for a genetic disorder of the children of John and Aileen Crowley (Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell) in a drama based on a true-life story.

Liberty High School, Bethlehem, graduate, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, stars in "Tooth Fairy" as a minor-league hockey star who has to do more than spend time in the penalty box. The movie also stars Ashley Judd and Julie Andrews.

Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid star in "Legion" about the Biblical Apocalypse which, in this story, takes place at, of all places, a diner.

The SouthSide Film Institute presents the documentary, "Before the Music Dies," at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 21 at Victory Firehouse, 205 Webster St., Bethlehem. The documentary includes interviews and performances by Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews and Branford Marsalis.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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