In my busyness, I neglected to write a review of the movie Victoria and Abdul, which my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in October 2017. It’s a mostly true story of a couple guys from India sent to England to present Her Royal Highness, Empress of India, Queen Victoria with a coin for her golden jubilee.
Victoria (Judy Dench) is, by her own description, old and fat and very much a curmudgeon, bored with the pomp of the affairs of state. It’s worse because her beloved husband Albert died, and her good friend John Brown is gone as well. (I saw the movie Mrs Brown, also starring Dame Judi, back in February 1998; V&A is is a sequel of sorts.)
As Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) and Adeel Akhtar (Mohammed) make their brief presentation, the former violates protocol by actually making eye contact with the queen. The handsome Abdul finds favor with the monarch and they develop a most unexpected friendship.
Her household and inner circle, notably Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) and her increasingly impatient heir apparent Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard) are NOT pleased with the queen’s fascination with the Indian interloper.
Victoria and Abdul, in a mostly humorously cheeky way, shows that someone can indeed show an old queen new tricks. It addresses Britain’s colonial past, making it clear that Victoria could actually learn from even her far-away subjects. And while her Mr. Brown was not well-regarded by those around the queen, the elevation of this brown-skinned man made them apoplectic.
I will admit that I liked Victoria and Abdul it more than some of the critics (only 66% positive on Rotten Tomatoes). One complained that “the film’s attempt to portray the Queen as more politically enlightened than her courtiers is kindly but unconvincing.” Well, my wife and I were convinced.
The leads plus Eddie Izzard were especially good. I may have now seen Judi Dench in more movies than any other actor, save perhaps Meryl Streep, and she always makes the trip to the cinema worthwhile.