Monday, September 25, 2017

Movie Review … Victoria And Abdul

Judi Dench has made a habit of playing royalty.  Perhaps her regal presence elevates her above other actors who are unable to convey the weary majesty royalty brings.  Having portrayed Queen Victoria before in ‘Mrs Brown’, Dench created a path others have tried to match. She returns to the role again in ‘Victoria and Abdul’. Almost a sequel/remake of ‘Mrs Brown’, it gives Dench another opportunity to command all comers from her royally encrusted throne.

Nearing the end of her reign as British Queen, Victoria (Judi Dench) craves decent company.  Still mourning her husband’s passing, she longs for something more apart from regular courtiers and hangers-on.  She finds this with her Indian servant Abdul (Ali Fazal).  Striking up a genuine friendship, they explore the path each has taken that has led to their meeting. Along the way they encounter the usual problems of royalty and prestige testing their union.

From her first appearance it is clear ‘Victoria and Abdul’ belongs to Judi Dench. Without her, the movie would have had little value.  Whenever she appears the story catches fire as her character grapples with the mundanity of royal life.  How she attempts to put spark in her dwindling years is well realised in her relationship with Abdul.  His stoic determination to teach her new life lessons and stand up to stuffy traditions makes ‘Victoria and Abdul’ worth watching.

As wonderful as Dench and the cast are, ‘Victoria and Abdul’ generally feels very formulaic.  Director Stephen Frears fails to inject much passion or flair to make the predictable script different from others.  The emotional beats feel forced, as if they’re needed to add spice to a lukewarm story.  The historical details and production design is fascinating, just what’s within them isn’t very involving.  The screenplay has a manipulative air about it with the flow from point A to B seemingly contrived to bring out the requisite audience responses.

Whilst the performances are excellent with a reasonably engaging story, ‘Victoria and Abdul’ fails to linger in the memory.  There are many similar movies who have told this type of tale better. More of a bronze than silver-plated success, ‘Victoria and Abdul’ is at least interesting enough not to be sent to the proverbial cinematic tower.

Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia. 



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