Monday, September 11th, 2017

Victoria and Abdul

The two-time Oscar nominated British director Stephen Frears resume includes such stunning movies such as The Queen and The Grifters, and on the other hand some dreadful mistakes such as Lay The Favorite and Chéri that we’re sure he would rather forget. His latest movie Victoria and Abdul falls somewhere in the middle.  A pleasant crowd-pleaser of a movie that is hardly a stretch of Dame Judi Dench’s talent as Victoria, or the imagination of the audience.

It is based on a true story about the time when the elderly Queen Victoria (Dench) is about to celebrate her Golden Jubilee as Queen.  She has been widowed for decades and her faithful right hand John Brown has also been dead for some time, and so just surrounded by ingratiating courtiers she feels extremely isolated and lonely.  As she is still the Empress of India too, the Indian Government wishing to curry favor, gift her a unique gold coin, and send Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) a lowly clerk to make the presentation.

The Queen is completely indifferent to the gift, but she does take a shine to its very handsome bearer insisting that he stay on at Court as her personal footman.  She is soon infatuated with Abdul who impresses her with both his plain speaking and his genuine concern and affection.  The rest of the Court do not take kindly to being pushed aside by this low-bred foreign newcomer, but at the first signs of their dissent of her new ‘friend’ the Queen responds by elevating him from servant to Munshi her teacher and confidante.

She is so enamored  with Abdul that even when he lets slip he is actually married, the Queen is not phased at all and insists he goes back to India to bring her to join the Court too. However the more gifts and power that the Queen insists on bestowing on Abdul, the more the restless and unhappy Court try to plot to get rid of him, but all to no avail, for as long as the Queen is alive, he will be safely ensconced by her side.

This is Dench’s second big screen appearance as the Queen who used to be England’s longest serving Monarch, and at 82 years old. her performance is as usually totally captivating.  As much as one loves seeing her light up the screen in roles like this and the Hotel Marigold, we cannot help wishing for a return of  the days when she got to play much meatier roles such as in Notes on A Scandal.

The Bollywood star Fazal gives an impressive performance that convinces us that the elderly queen was right to lose her head over him.

There is also a slew of such wonderful performances from the impressive supporting cast as the Court and her ministers that features an array of some of the best British actors of the day such as Michael Gambon, the late Tim Piggot-Smith, Julian Wadham, Simon Callow  etc., and especially Eddie Izzard as the Prince of Wales.

With a script from Lee Evans (Billy Elliot) and some superb camera work from Danny Cohen, this story of one of history’s most unusual friendships  is well-crafted look at the past, and another chance to see the wonderful Judi Dench at work. 


Posted by queerguru  at  10:29

Genres:  period drama

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