Victoria and Abdul (2017)

  • Time: 112 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | History
  • Director: Stephen Frears
  • Cast: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Michael Gambon


Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.

One review

  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5)

    GRADE: B-


    IN BRIEF: An excellent performance by Dame Judi cannot camouflage the misinformation found in its script.

    SYNOPSIS: An abridged version of a true event involving a friendship between Queen Victoria and an Indian servant.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 51 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: It is true that Queen Victoria had a special friendship with an Indian servant who gained prominence and notoriety during the later years of her reign. But in Stephen Frears’ retelling of this chapter in English history, it seems to be more fiction than fact. Playing fast and loose with the facts is an annoying trait with most biographies. And while Dame Judi Dench may rule with a heavy heart and fist as this aging monarch in Victoria and Abdul, even she should have taken issue with the fanciful screenplay written by Lee Hall.

    The film has enough pomp and circumstance and it captures the era with fine period details in its costumes and set design. Mr. Frears directs with a steady hand. The story itself is quite convincing at times, mainly due the excellent acting by Ms. Dench who reigns supreme. She conveys all the loneliness and resolve in the subtlest of ways and delivers her speeches with a knowing authority that reinforces her character’s internal suffering.

    However, Ali Fazal as Abdul is miscast. He is physically wrong for this role, too much a matinee idol dreamboat with his dark bedroom eyes and tall youthful stature, (unless this film suddenly morphed into a Bollywood musical, then the actor would be a perfect foil.) As written, the actor is no match for the acting prowess of his leading lady. Mr. Fazal plays this character in the most one dimensional of terms, more as an idealistic and devoted fool instead of the ambitious and conniving opportunist that Abdul Karim actually was. His inability to relate with his conquest throws the film off. However, the political intrigue and racism over this foreigner gaining close proximity to Her Royal Highness does ring true.

    The acting by the supporting cast is solid, particularly Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard, Olivia Williams, Paul Higgins, and the ever reliable Michael Gambon.

    Overall, Victoria and Abdul is melodramatic folly. It still entertains but, looking at the end credits, we see an archival photograph of the real servant and his Queen. That says it all about this foolhardy venture. As they say, truth is better than fiction.

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