The Young Victoria

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      Starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend. Rated G. Opens Friday, December 18, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

      Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend make a picture-perfect couple in The Young Victoria. And although not a perfect picture, its leads offer enough memorable chemistry to make this more than just another Masterpiece Theatre costume drama.

      Watch the trailer for The Young Victoria.

      Things get off to a stuffy start with the overambitious script from Gosford Park’s Julian Fellowes introducing a welter of early 19-century characters. As the sheltered niece of ailing King William (Jim Broadbent, at his cranky best) and Belgium’s King Leopold (Germany’s Thomas Kretschmann), Princess Victoria (played by Blunt from the age of 18) is caught between those forces of manipulation and her greedy mother (Miranda Richardson), egged on by an even more calculating partner (Mark Strong).

      Into this hushed hornet’s nest comes the timid but soulful Prince Albert (Friend), also a relative of Leopold’s and primed to take sides. Victoria likes the musically minded foreigner, but her more immediate attentions are on the solicitous Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany, suaver than usual), the current prime minister, who sees her as one helluva stepping stone to permanent power.

      Events that should conspire, in a romantic or political drama of this sort, to drive the principals apart here cleverly serve to bring them together, with subtly moderating effects on the people around them. The slightly fact-tweaking Victoria is an unusual and imaginative follow-up to French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée’s ’80s-set C.R.A.Z.Y. It’s too bad he literalized so much of the script. (At one point the future marrieds actually play chess while discussing their pawn-like roles.) But here the game really does pay off.