Friday, January 08, 2010
The Young Victoria/Youth In Revolt
At first glance there's little reason to review these two togther except timing, but both The Young Victoria and Youth In Revolt deal with young people from whom little is expected and much is received. In The Young Victoria Emily Blunt plays the longest reigning English monarch, who assumed the throne at the age of 18 in 1837 amid almost unanimous speculation that she was too young for the job. The bulk of the film follows her reign through her marriage to Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) and the birth of her first child. Blunt, who is 26, is best in scenes that depict Victoria's increasing unhappiness with the restrictions imposed by her mother (Miranda Richardson), who makes someone hold her hand going up and down stairs, and by the advisor (Mark Strong) who hopes to become the power behind a Regency if King William IV (Jim Broadbent) dies before Victoria's 18th birthday. Victoria's early stabs at being a social reformer are given perfunctory attention; why talk about the living conditions of the poor when we can watch Victoria fall in love with Albert, to whom Friend gives enough spine to make Victoria's attraction believable with enough underplaying to signal that it will always be Victoria's country. Assorted palace intrigues are depicted concisely and the overall effect is pleasing, as costumes and other trappings don't overwhelm Blunt, Friend, or Paul Bettany as self-interested Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. Will Blunt be game for a sequel in 15 or 20 years?
Youth In Revolt, based on the 500 page (too long by half) novel by C.D. Payne, is being billed as a chance for Michael Cera to break out of that lovably awkward run of roles that has lasted...well, since anyone can remember. Cera plays Nick Twisp, sex-obsessed and about as at home with his inattentive Mom (Jean Smart) in a trashy Oakland neighborhood as he would be in a Star Trek movie. Nick is 13 in Payne's book, which Cera obviously isn't and the movie suffers for the age adjustment. The behavior Nick uses to win the heart of Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), including car theft and drugging, seems like the product of a sex-addled mind gone awry in the novel but if Nick is 16 or 17 the same behavior comes off a little obsessive. Smart, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, and Zach Galifianakis all have too little to do in supporting roles. As for Cera, he shows some different colors as Nick's id-created bad boy persona "Francois Dillinger" but otherwise drifts through the movie in a haze of irony when what was needed was a mass of roiling desires. Cera can change our perception of him by not trying so hard, most of his films seem a little too tailored to his persona. Don't be afraid of supporting roles, take some meetings (David Gordon Green?, Noah Baumbach?) and roll the dice.