Friday, October 20, 2017

The 2017 biographical comedy-drama film “Victoria & Abdul” chronicles the real-life friendship between Queen Victoria and a young clerk from India. Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Lee Hall, the film is based on the book of same name by Shrabani Basu.

Today’s Al Roker and Sheinelle Jones sit down with stars Dame Judi Dench, Ali Fazal and Eddie Izzard along with the film’s director, Stephen Frears.

The film had its world premiere at the 74th Venice Film Festival, and was theatrically released on September 15, 2017 in the United Kingdom and September 22 in the United States. It has grossed over $32 million worldwide.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 68%, based on 138 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, "Victoria & Abdul reunites Dame Judi Dench with the role of Queen Victoria — which is all this period drama needs to overcome its imbalanced narrative." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Writing for The Independent, Amrou Al-Kadhi was highly critical of the film. He wrote that "Films like Victoria & Abdul seek to absolve our barbaric behaviour in colonised countries." Al-Kadhi criticised the white-washing of the British Raj and the "offensive two-dimensionality" of Abdul's character, who is shown kissing the feet of Queen Victoria and expressing his gratitude of being among the "glorious people" of the British Empire.

In The Guardian, Simran Hans described the film as "well-meaning"; however, she was also critical of the depictions of both Abdul and the British Empire. She noted that "The film takes great pains to absolve Victoria of colonial responsibility, painting her, bizarrely, as tolerant and reviled for it." Hans also wrote that "This kind of historical revisionism is a stretch that, at best, works as a cute royalist fantasy and, at worst, dresses up its endorsement of colonialism and empire as something progressive." Xan Brooks, writing separately for The Guardian, mocked the attempt to paint Queen Victoria as a "progressive outrider, railing against white racists", commenting that the director was only prevented from depicting Victoria as "Gandhi and Nehru come early" by historians holding a gun to his head. Brooks concluded that the film, "about the Raj era that looks as if it was made back then", was "peculiarly dodgy".

In the Daily Express, film editor and critic Andy Lea rated the film two out of five stars, describing Abdul's character as "disappointingly servile" and criticising the plot as "decent material for a knockabout farce", but praising Dench as "predictably brilliant".

Writing for the Irish Independent, Paul Whitington, who rated the movie two out of five stars, was also critical of the historical revisionism. Whitington wrote that "Victoria And Abdul offers a shamelessly saccharine version of British imperial history and seems to imply that the Raj was a bumbling, genial regime rather than a rapacious foreign occupation. The blandly smiling character of Abdul never achieves three dimensions and Izzard plays Bertie as such a conniving, liverish idiot that one wonders how he ever became such a popular king."

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