Judi Dench and Ali Fazal
[Photo: Focus Features]

'Victoria & Abdul' 

Director: Stephen Frears

Stars: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith, Adeel Akhtar, Michael Gambon

Rating: PG-13


2/5 Globes

Plot: Set in the late 1890s and based upon real events, "Victoria & Abdul" opens with Abdul Karim being invited to England from India so that he can take part in the Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee celebrations. Even though he is only supposed to hand deliver a coin to her Royal Highness, and is strictly told not to make eye contact with Victoria, his life is immediately turned upside down when he fleeting catches her gaze. After Victoria comments on how handsome Abdul is, he quickly becomes her servant, and the two soon strike up a close friendship. However, those within the Monarchy and close to Queen Victoria take umbrage with their relationship, and start plotting Abdul’s downfall. 

Everyone loves Judi Dench. Even when she’s in a sub-par release, the delightful Dame is always able to do something to salvage your attention, finding humor and heart in the unlikeliest of scenarios. There are times in "Victoria & Abdul" in which the Academy Award winner jolts you out of your boredom with just a look or particular reading of a line. But, ultimately, there’s just not enough in the tale or script for her to keep it fully buoyant. "Victoria & Abdul" actually starts rather well, as director Stephen Frears pokes fun at the pageantry and pomp of the monarchy, and quickly and assuredly establishes the relationship between the two titular characters. But it never builds to anything more compelling. While the treatment of Abdul feels particularly timely in the wake of Brexit, that sentiment soon evaporates. By the end you’re simply glad its over. 

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