Dame Judi Dench is once again playing Queen Victoria in the new movie ‘Victoria and Abdul’ (She played her on ‘Mrs Brown’ previously) so this role is not new to her, nor the audience. And she plays like like she was born with it – you believe her right away, and most times it’s all so second skin to her that she seems like she is just playing, not acting. And at 82, she still commands any scene she is in, even without speaking a word (as evident in her early scenes here) On one of her state dinners, she chances upon Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) and his handsomeness charms her, and one thing leads to another that he becomes her companion, a sort of personal assistant, and mushu (teacher) who lessons her on the Koran, as well as Urdu. The early scenes are fun, as Dench, as the Queen, break all rules and protocol to push Abdul to be a part of the Queen’s household.
But this all sounds too familiar. Frears never really injects sizzle, and the latter half becomes a bit too predictable. I mean, you more or less know what you are gonna get here. Plus, I know the film is getting slammed for white-washing historical events, and while I see that this film is (mostly fiction,) the cutesy elements could have been toned down.
But, I still found myself entertained by it, and for lovers of these sorts of things, the film is definitely a worthwhile watch. And Dench’s performance is still a must-see. I wish I saw something new in it, but there’s no denying it is solid. And The Academy loves British royalty performances, so I predict you will be seeing Dench’s name at least being nominated.