Full Review: VICTORIA AND ABDUL (UK 2017) ***

Victoria and Abdul Poster
Trailer

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

Director:

Stephen Frears

Writers:

Lee Hall (screenplay), Shrabani Basu (based on the book by)

Stars:

Judi DenchOlivia WilliamsMichael Gambon

Director Stephen Frears has made great controversial films like SAMMY AND ROSIE GET LAID, THE SNAPPER and MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE.  He has also made films about royalty before, like THE QUEEN and also sentimental slush like PHILOMENA, with Judi Dench.  VICTORIA AND ABDUL a film about Queen Victoria (Oscar Winner Judi Dench) and her Indian servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) contains a cocktail of all the elements of the films mentioned above.  The result, as expected as a mediocre Jack of all Trades Master of None film, which shines but only occasionally.

 

The film chronicles with humour and insight the friendship between Queen Victoria and a decades-younger Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.  Karim has been summoned because of his height to present in England all the way from Agar, India the colonized homeland, a present.   The present is satirically, a ceremonial coin on behalf of British India to the Queen as a part of her Golden Jubilee in 1887,  Abdul with another travel for the intimidating task. 

 

Abdul has done what is forbidden during the ceremony.  He makes eye contact with the Queen who finds him handsome.  In no time he is cooking her curries, talking to her about his culture, and being elevated to the post of official clerk, or Munshi, becoming an indispensable part of the household — and state.

 

This is where trouble boils.  The Queen’s son, Bertie and the household take offence that this ‘coloured’ lowly servant is treated royally.  The ultimatum comes when the Queen decides to knight Abdul in order to have her household respect him.  The opposite occur.  The household threaten to resign if Karim is knighted.  This is where the Queen uses her brain and oratory to win the day.  Frears uses the incident to make a statement about the refugee crisis and racial prejudice.  The film’s best segment occurs here when the Queen chides her entire household with a speech that put them to shame.  This is a Dench’s award winning performance.

 

Frears’ assessment of Britain and royalty remains respectful.  The Queen at one point remarks: “A lot of people around the world hate me.”  Abdul says of the British as uncivilized on the ship en-route to England for the first time: “They put it’s blood in their sausages and eat sheep’s brains.”  The first words heard by Abdul on landing: “Welcome to Civilization!”

 

Queen Victoria is revealed in the film with all her grandeur (her robe and servants) but also with all her faults and her ageing process.  When she is first seen in the film, her face is not shown, but her body covered in white (like a shroud) in bed with snoring heard.  She also claims herself to be and shown as well as cankerous, ill-tempered, fat but also one that has held five generations of household and mother of many children and grandchildren.  “I am the Queen of England and the Emperor of India,” she claims proudly.

 

VICTORIA AND ABDUL is Frears’ mediocre film which is tolerant of everything and offends no one.  These kind of films are often humorous, handsomely mounted, well acted but unfortunately forgetful. 

 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT2Ph_9bGPs

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: VICTORIA AND ABDUL (UK 2017)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Victoria and Abdul Poster
Trailer

2:29 | Trailer
Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.

Director:

Stephen Frears

Writers:

Lee Hall (screenplay), Shrabani Basu (based on the book by)

Stars:

Judi DenchOlivia WilliamsMichael Gambon

VICTORIA AND ABDUL chronicles with humour and insight the friendship between Queen Victoria (Oscar Winner Judi Dench) and a decades-younger Indian clerk named Abdul Karim. Karim has been summoned because of his height to present a ceremonial coin on behalf of British India to the Queen as a part of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. Abdul has done what is forbidden during the ceremony.

He makes eye contact with the Queen who finds him handsome. In no time he is cooking her curries, talking to her about his culture, and being elevated to the post of official clerk, or Munshi, becoming an indispensable part of the household — and state.

Frears’ assessment of Britain and royalty remain respectful. Queen Victoria is revealed in the film with all her grandeur (her royal attire and servants) but also with all her faults and her ageing process. She also claims herself to be and shown as well as cankerous, ill-tempered, fat but also one that has held five generations of household and mother of many children and grandchildren.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL is Frears’ mediocre film which is tolerant of everything and offends no one. These kind of films are often humorous, handsomely mounted, well acted but unfortunately forgetful.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT2Ph_9bGPs
 

VICTORIA AND ABDUL

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (UK 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

florence_foster_jenkins.jpgFLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (UK 2016) ***
Directed by Stephen Frears

Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg

Review by Gilbert Seah

As one magazine writer aptly put: Meryl Streep has added one more talent to her curriculum vitae – the ability to sing flat.

Based on true events, the film is based on the character Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep), an heiress and socialite in New York who owns a music club, the Verdi. She, though ill in health, lives for music, aspiring to become an opera singer with the help of her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) and her pianist Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg). Florence’s first words in the film: “Music is my life!” But the truth is that unknown to her, she has generally poor singing ability.

It is no doubt that a large part of the film’s humour is derived from Florence’ awful singing and the observation of the reactions of those listening to her. Frears’ camera relies too heavily on both. The camera lingers on McMoon, Florence’s pianist as well as Bayfield’s facial mannerisms too much for comfort.

As far as performances go, Hugh Grant stands out extremely well as the loving long-suffering yet cheating husband. Streep delivers another unforgettable performance, maybe even another Oscar nominated one. Simon Helberg (from TV’s THE BIG BANG THEORY) is amusing to watch and shines in one key scene. But it is relative newcomer Nina Arianda as the trampy admirer Agnes Stark who steals the show and every scene she is in.

The story has the audience believe that Bayfield is married to Florence but has not consummated their marriage. The marriage bond is still a loving one – aided no doubt by the fact that Bayfield has full access to her wealth. Bayfield has a mistress Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson) living in Bayfield’s apartment that Florence has paid for. When Florence shows up one morning unannounced, the film turns into a bedroom farce, something the British are always good at.

The overlong film has two big climatic plot points. One is Florence’s grand performance at Carnegie Hall. Will she be able to perform to the satisfaction of everyone and not be ridiculed? The second is whether Florence will find out the truth about the secret that Bayfield has been keeping from her – that she cannot sing. Director Fears plays the first one out in grandeur and the second using Grant’s full acting capabilities.
The film looks and feels like New York City 1944. The vintage cars (used rather sparingly), props, wardrobe and hair help create the atmosphere. Music by Alexandre Desplat is always a pleasure to the ears though his music is clouded by the songs Streep sings.

Despite being a one-joke film with the one joke (Florence’s flat singing) stretched out too long, Frears’ film is still enjoyable, with sufficient comical distractions.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS is as the ad says, a film that will be enjoyed more for the power of music and the power for one to accomplish more beyond ones means. Those in the theatre and music business will certainly find this film more amusing, being able to recognize all the famous classical operatic songs as well as the travails stars have to go through. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS is a feel-good audience film that should delight Streep fans.

 

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Happy Birthday: Stephen Frears

stephenfrearsHappy Birthday director Stephen Frears

Born: June 20, 1941 in Leicester, Leicestershire, England, UK

Married to: Anne Rothenstein (1992 – present) (2 children)

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Liaisons
1988
dir. Frears
Starring
Glenn Close
John Malkovich
THE HI-LO COUNTRYThe Hi-Lo Country
1998
dir. Frears
Starring
Billy Crudup
Woody Harrelson
MOVIE POSTERTHE QUEEN
2006
dir. Stephen Frears
Stars:
Helen Mirren
Michael Sheen
HIGH FIDELITYHigh Fidelity
2000
dir. Stephen Frears
Cast
John Cusack
Jack Black
MOVIE POSTERPHILOMENA
2013
dir. Stephen Frears
Stars:
Steve Coogan
Judi Dench
DIRTY PRETTY THINGSDirty Pretty Things
2002
dir. Frears
Cast
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Audrey Tautou