It’s possible that this is all my fault. You can probably blame this entire review on the fact that I love movie trailers a little too much. It’s why I hate being late for the movies. It drives me goddamn wild, because watching each trailer and silently deciding whether or not I’d come back to see that movie is one of my favorite parts of the entire movie theater experience. I’m a sucker for a good trailer. The Shining, one of my favorite movies of all time, has an amazing trailer and if you think that doesn’t factor into my reason for loving it so much, then you haven’t’ been paying attention to a word I’ve said. It’s not that I’d think less of a good movie with a bad trailer, it’s more that a great one is the perfect extra.
Victoria has a great trailer. It’s got thrumming, droning, ominous dance music. All of the shots feel close and intimate. Emotions are running so high, they’re basically bleeding off the screen. There’s confusion, betrayal, danger, and then that sad spooky calm before the storm. Then BAM you’re hit with the title screen. Essentially, the movie revolves around a girl from Madrid who is studying piano while partying it up in Germany. She runs into a group of charming scoundrels while at a club, and decides to spend the rest of the night with them, because she’s never heard of stranger danger or something. The night takes an exciting and dangerous turn when the men are blackmailed into robbing a bank, which they can only do if Victoria stays with them and plays the getaway driver. Doesn’t that sound cool? There’s even some ominous classical music, assuming the ominous house music wasn’t doing much for you. Even if you’re not paying attention to the countless positive quotes flashing on the screen, you can tell that this is going to be one wild ride from the beginning to the very end.
Except, it isn’t really. I’m not saying that wild and crazy things don’t happen. They do. In fact there’s plenty of them. It’s that this goddamn one take nonsense makes it feel as if very little ever happens. Every “scene” feels like a piece of taffy being stretched out until it’s unidentifiable. There are plenty of interactions that should be stressful and terrifying, that end up feeling boring because the camera just keeps wobbling around, doing whatever it wants regardless of what’s going on. I’m not saying that every single scene has to be filled with shoot outs and danger, but I can only watch German men get drunk and be silly for so long before I want to take a nap. I wanted to stop and take a nap so many times while watching Victoria, I was embarrassed of myself. That’s a bad sign.
There are, on the other hand, two points in the movie where the one take, one shot gimmick works exceedingly well. The first is when, unbeknownst to Victoria, her new German pals purposefully decide to put her in danger by driving her to a parking garage to meet a man who is essentially a gang leader. Victoria may fail in certain aspects, but the film does some very creative things with the various language barriers. Most of the movie is spoken in English. That’s mainly because Victoria is from Madrid, she doesn’t know any German, and the guys don’t know any Spanish. Thankfully, all of them have great English speaking skills. At one point, the guys convince her to hop in a stolen car with them and they chat in German while heading to meet the gang leader. It’s a deeply spooky scene. Victoria has no idea what they’re talking about, but the audience understands every subtitled word. Victoria has no idea of the dangers she’s walking into, she doesn’t even know the car is stolen, but you know everything. The camera roves around the car in an anxious, knowing way. It’s like watching a blindfolded person about to walk off a cliff. It’s one of the most tense and exhilarating movies in the entire film. The second is when Victoria must wait for them in real time to rob the bank while she anxiously awaits in the getaway car.
Those two scenes are everything I wanted Victoria to be. They’re unnerving, high energy, and the one take concept makes them feel vital and alive. Every other part of the movie could be cut into different scenes, just like any other film and its terrific trailer. That’s the crux of the problem with Victoria. Most of the film feels meandering and pointless, as if you’re just following along with the story because it’s too late to do anything else. If you’re going to chose to do something, there should be thought and reason behind the choice.