By: Movie Snurb (Four Beers) –
Victoria & Abdul tells the true story of Queen Victoria and her Indian Muslim servant Abdul Karim. Victoria is older and crotchety, and lots of people in her life are gone and she now seems to be just awaiting death. Abdul comes to the United Kingdom to present a Mohur, which is a token of appreciation from British-ruled India, to the Empress of India. Victoria ends up taking a liking to Abdul who fills her with a renewed purpose for getting out of bed in the morning. He begins to teach her the Qur’an and Urdu. However, the people around Queen Victoria do not take kindly to an Indian being so close with the Queen, especially the heir to her throne- her son.
Judy Dench is by far the best thing about this film. Most of the cast is great, especially Ali Fazel and Adeel Akhtar (who provides most of the laughs). However, Dench is on her A game here as she always is. You could make the argument that she has begun to be typecast, but that’s only because she is so damn good at portraying real life royalty. I won’t be surprised if the Academy decides to nominate her for this role; if she doesn’t land a nomination it’s because the film didn’t do well critically or commercially. There is a argument to be made for a nomination though, as she is the one saving grace to the film.
The film has nothing new to say on the front of racism. There are so many films that touch on this subject that it’d be nice to see some kind of a new take on the matter. The film does tell a story that we have not heard before and needs to be told but it still doesn’t feel original or insightful.
Part of the problem is the film play like a paint by numbers activity. We know where the film is going, and the filmmakers decide that doesn’t matter. Watching this film felt like driving to my day job. I’ve done it so often my brain tunes out and I still get there. You’ll be able to do the same in the theater and get what the film is trying to tell you.
The film also felt rushed. There wasn’t that much time spent on Victoria and Abdul building their friendship, so by the time the end of the film comes you try to decide if you should even care about the relationship. Yeah we get it, we shouldn’t treat people differently based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever. There needed to be some more scenes forming that bond and the film could’ve had a bigger emotional impact in the end.
Victoria & Abdul is a nice film. It’s a story that was not told for a very long time and needed to be told. This film will go over well for your grandmother, but if you’re not a grandmother you could skip this one. Go see Blade Runner 2049 instead while you still can.
Victoria & Abdul (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Abdul teaches something to Victoria.
Do a Shot: every time someone gives a judgmental look.
Take a Drink: every time the wake up Queen Victoria.
Do a Shot: every time Victoria’s son is a jackass.