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Victoria and Abdul

A light historical comedy in search of deeper meaning

     Nearing the end of her reign and her life, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench: Tulip Fever) sleeps through her routine of parties, banquets and royal audiences. 
     She is wakened from her stupor by Abdul (Ali Fazal: Happy Bhag Jayegi), an Indian clerk who has crossed the ocean to deliver a ceremonial coin to his queen. Chosen for his appearance and height, Abdul rouses Victoria’s interest in life.
     Her request that he serve her raises eyebrows and more as her fascination deepens. When she promotes Abdul to royal Munshi (an Urdu term for teacher and spiritual advisor), her son Bertie (Eddie Izzard: The LEGO Batman Movie) is outraged. He and the royal household conspire to get rid of Abdul and recover their queen.
     At times poignant and often funny, this play of manners gets into trouble of its own while riffing loosely on a little known historic relationship.
     Trying for a political commentary on colonialism, director Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins) falls into the colonialist mindset he’s seeking to expose. Abdul shows pure devotion to a monarch who has shown nothing but brutality to his people. He is a prop for her growth. 
     Frears also makes the naïve claim that Victoria was cured of ignorant beliefs through their relationship. Harsh laws on the treatment of Indian people during her reign were never revised in her lifetime. Victoria isn’t interested in just any Indian servant but this handsome one. 
     Performances, on the other hand, are fine. Dench, who has played the role of Victoria before in the magnificent Mrs. Brown, delivers a Victoria who is imperious and sharp-eyed but who still has the childish crushes and behavior of a girl. Fazal has much less to do, as his character is fairly well defined by Victoria, but he gamely brings to life Abdul’s devotion. 
     Seek no deeper meaning and take Victoria and Abdul as a light bit of historical comedy. 
Fair Dramedy • PG-13 • 112 mins. 
 
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