Who's In It: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong
The Basics: It's hard out there for a teenage monarch. Young Queen Victoria (Blunt), 18 and stubborn, finds herself surrounded by people who'd like nothing more than to usurp her power and control her. She can't even trust her own mother not to be a conniving bad guy. So when she meets Albert (yep, that Prince Albert) and forms a strong friendship bond that eventually leads to marriage, she knows she's found a collaborator she can rule alongside. In other words, you're not going to be watching a game of Stratego here, more like a somewhat peeved royal version of Mystery Date.
What's The Deal: Rather than pack this movie with intrigue and wild royal court incident, the creative team decided you'd have more fun watching a quietly elegant (mostly, save for some low-level histrionics and one cool scene where Jim Broadbent throws a King-size conniption fit at a fancy dinner party) succession of unpleasant power-grabbers as they try and fail to sway the new Queen into obedience. So when it's not focusing its attention on her reasonably swoony romance with Albert, it's mostly about Victoria proclaiming, "No, you shall not!" to just about everybody who crosses her path.
Who Makes Sure It's Never Boring: Emily Blunt. As movie monarchs go she's no Cate Blanchett, but she's a serious face and knows how to stare people down like a queen should. But most of all, her scenes with Albert (Rupert Friend) are sweet and moving. The rest of the film may feel like a still life, but their love story makes that other stuff worth sitting through. They push aside any "Eww!" feelings you may harbor about actual British royalty having sex with each other.
Why They Keep Making Period Films About The Burden Of Royalty: I don't think these are made for British audiences, really. I assume there's a segment of the U.K. public that still eats up the soft-focus version of their history, played by people who are way more attractive than their real-life counterparts. But I think it's Anglophiles in other countries who really get off on this stuff. They don't care about facts or reality. They just want to bathe in two hours of vintage opulence and stiffly mannered behavior. I mean, at least that's what I like about it all. Bring on the corsets!
When To Leave: The second the end credits come along. Because it's Oscar voting time. Which means an award-jonesing pop song over the credits. A really bad one. I didn't check to see what it was called or who sings it. But the barfy lyrics are more or less the story of the movie, one of those "I'm everything I am because you loved me" things. Run, don't walk, for those exits.