Victoria & Abdul

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You can show me anything Judi Dench does and I’ll watch it. She’s my red velvet cake, delicious performances every time out. She has played Queen Victoria before and this time delivers an equally strong performance. For me, she was Meryl Streep before Meryl Streep – strong roles and great performances. And she gets better with age.

So, how much of this film is true and how much is from a Hollywood screenwriter? According to a Vanity Fair article ( https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/09/queen-victoria-and-abdul-real-story ) much of the film appears to be true.

SPOILER ALERT: After the Queen Victoria’s death, her family deported Abdul and destroyed all materials related to him including any writing in the Queen’s diaries. So, how did a secret kept for 100 years finally come to light? A determined journalist spent years piecing together the story, aided by Abdul’s own diaries.

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The film is a delight and certainly took me on a story somewhat different than what I expected. An all-star cast delivers superb performances including Michael Gambon as the prime minister who alternates between looking completely mystified and at his boiling point. The house staff of the Queen is filled with marvelous actors who must ultimately choose sides between loyalty to the Queen or to the Crown.

At first I thought the Queen seemed too quick to be so drawn to the Abdul, it was like a spell fell over her, but after reading the Vanity Fair article, it seems quite plausible. The Queen was about 80 years old at the time, and although slowed by health issues, and what appeared to be boredom in fulfilling her official duties, seemed to get her second wind with the arrival of Abdul.

The script contains numerous light elements, many coming from the Queen perplexing her rather stiff-upper-lip-household, including her very irritating son, the Prince of Wales (where have we heard this before?).  Skillfully directed with a light touch by Stephen Frears, the film looks authentic and beautiful, without drawing needless attention to it’s production elements.  Frears is known for having directed 2006’s The Queen (with Helen Mirren), The Grifters (1990), Dangerous Liaisons (1989), Philomena (2013), and Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) coincidentally with Meryl Streep.

Ali Fazal portrays Abdul Karim, an Indian actor with many British and American television and film roles. He does a fine job but he has an impossible chore of keeping up with Dame Judi Dench. I don’t think anyone could. Well, maybe Meryl Streep, possibly.

 


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