Starring Judy Dench and Ali Fazal, Victoria and Abdul is based on the true story of the unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim. Abdul was a clerk working at a jail in India who was fatefully summoned to sail from India to England to present Her Majesty with a gift from his native land, simply because he was the tallest guy around. Karim was to present the gift, leave the palace and return to India almost immediately, but became Victoria’s teacher and royal advisor, living on the palace grounds as Victoria’s curious companion. Around Abdul, Victoria could relax, be herself and suspend all protocol.
This story is beautiful. It is more of what we need at this historically tumultuous turning point in time. (Just read the comments under almost any post on Facebook and you will see we have a huge problem with ethnicity/classism/racism and a whole lot more in this country, if you don’t believe me.) Two people separated by caste with gender/social/economic/cultural/geographic and religious differences managed to befriend one another. Despite their many differences, they connected, reached out to one another, talked to and listened to each other, and more importantly, they respected and learned from one another. Rather than focus on their differences, as the Queen’s advisors and relatives would have had her do, and as royal protocol dictated, these two focused on the things they had in common to build a unique, rich and mutually meaningful friendship.
In 2017 all we seem to do is talk “at” each other via social media, and I for one find it tiring. The level of immaturity in our communications astounds me daily. Silly, childish, sometimes mean-spirited name calling and rehearsed, regurgitated b.s. has replaced independent thought, listening and debate. People seem hell-bent and happy to stick to their beliefs – no matter how antiquated, logical or illogical those beliefs may be. Basic communication, talking and listening to one another, seem to be becoming a dying art. Isn’t it ironic, that something that we were originally so excited about, with the thought that it would help bring people closer together, is the very tool being used to divide and drive us apart in so many ways? (Leave it to humans to muck up something great and twist it into something ugly… We should have known better.) Victoria and Abdul reminds us of what we could accomplish if we would express ourselves respectfully and thoughtfully listen to one another. Thinking about the contrast between what we call communication today and the way these two people communicated makes Victoria and Abdul a bitter-sweet movie.
Judy Dench’s career spans nearly sixty years. This woman hasn’t been around this long for no reason. She is effortless with her acting – always. And if Judy Dench portrays herself as the Queen, then Judy Dench is the Queen. Period. Ali Fazal is bound to go on and do great things. He’s easy on the eyes and talented. The chemistry between Dench and Fazal seems genuine and this chemistry is what draws you into the story. The supporting cast does a great job. Some are endearing and others you will despise, but everyone hits their intended mark.
Unfortunately, the bigotry which exists today is rooted in bigotry of the past and all records of this exceptional relationship between Victoria and Abdul were deliberately destroyed almost immediately following Victoria’s death. Fortunately, Abdul wrote letters which were discovered years later, documenting the relationship, and the story was brought back to life.
Victoria and Abdul earned 8.5 out of 10 bloops. It is a great, mostly feel good movie that is worth seeing for its historical content, acting – oh and I nearly failed to mention, it is also beautifully shot and features brilliant costume design. It is smartly written, well directed, timely, and reminds us all of a great lesson. The truly sad part about this movie is that such a “lesson” stills seems necessary to remind people how we should treat one another. When will we ever learn?
Go see it. And if you can’t catch it on the big screen (it’s still playing at the AMC Loews 19th Street theater in NYC) make sure to stream it when it becomes available.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m seeing next…
*Honestly, this year, I have to tell you, I haven’t seen much that I’m super excited about outside of these franchise super hero movies. That’s crazy to me, because a couple of years ago you couldn’t drag me into one of those comic book things! I want to see art, originality, and creativity in acting and storytelling! But I have learned a super hero movie is a nice distraction from reality. I’m working on reviews for some movies that have been out for a few weeks because I got a little bit lazy with my writing and because I haven’t seen anything that I’m passionate about and we are near mid-November here! Where are the Oscar contenders? I do not know. I’m waiting… By this time last year I was gushing about Queen of Katwe, Hell or High Water, Sully, Miss Sharon Jones, Arrival, Loving, Moonlight, Moonlight and Moonlight! So … I don’t get it. At any rate I’ll keep plugging at it until I come across the gems. Whatever is going on here, here’s what I’m seeing next:
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro