Combustible Celluloid
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With: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith, Adeel Akhtar, Simon Callow, Michael Gambon, Julian Wadham, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar, Jonathan Harden
Written by: Lee Hall, based on a book by Shrabani Basu
Directed by: Stephen Frears
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements and language
Running Time: 112
Date: 09/29/2017

Victoria and Abdul (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Queen Slate

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Stephen Frears returns to queens and actress Judi Dench returns to one particular queen with Victoria and Abdul; Dench already played this Elizabeth in Mrs. Brown, and here she is again as the grumpy, frumpy old matriarch, eating too much rich food and dealing with pesky family members like insects. Into her life comes Abdul (Ali Fazal), an envoy from India sent to give her a gift. She takes a liking to him, and decides to keep him around as her munshi, or teacher. And they become unlikely friends. Their ups and downs come when the queen realizes that Abdul is married, or has lied to her about some part of Indian history. Worse is when Prince Bertie (Eddie Izzard) shows up, filled with hatred toward this unwanted guest. While the film is definitely amusing and touching, it, for whatever reason, never quite grows into hilarious or moving. Whereas other Frears films like The Queen have a particular sparkle, this one feels a bit duller. Perhaps it's too much of a surface reading of this story, or perhaps it recoils a bit from the racial issues. However, the performances and the chemistry between the actors certainly help things along. Simon Callow appears in one scene as opera singer Puccini. This was the final film of Tim Pigott-Smith.

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