5 ideas about a movie: Victoria & Abdul

Movie reviews

Hello!

The British awards contender for this year – Victoria & Abdul – has premiered in its motherland/fatherland, so, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.

  1. Victoria & Abdul was written by a playwright and a screenwriter Lee Hall, who based the script on a book by Shrabani Basu. Halls’s last produced film was 2011’s War Horse (one of Spielberg’s recent and lesser films). Victoria & Abdul tells a true-ish story of Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim. I’m calling this narrative ‘true-ish’ because the movie itself stated that the events depicted happened only ‘mostly’. The plot was written as a comedy and to me, as an anthropologist-to-be, this raised a question/a problem: should the British make fun of colonialism? Are they right to depict a sort of nice side of the whole affair, while leaving out a lot of uncomfortable details? In the case of this picture, should they be allowed to make light of colonialism because they also poke fun at the ridiculousness of the British royal culture? I don’t really have answers to these questions, but they certainly sprung up in my mind while watching the movie.
  2. A few specific details that were of note in the film were: 1. the commentary on the Western civilization as being one of immense caste difference (the first thing the arrivers see – beggars) and 2. the showcasing of the artificial creation of the Oriental, specifically Indian, culture to be more exciting to the Westerners (the garments and their fake authenticity). In addition, a lot of the comedy in the movie arose from the cultural differences and the way the characters reacted to them. If not digging deeper (basically not thinking about the question I raised in point 1), on a surface level, the humor was working and the jokes were funny.
  3. The last and most important part of the film was the portrayal of friendship between the queen and her servant. I thought that the screenwriter added a lot of neat details for the two individuals to bond over, like the stories from India, the learning of the language, and etc. The friendship was very believably portrayed by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. Their performances made the movie heartwarming and very enjoyable and almost quieted the nagging issues in my mind.
  4. Stephen Frears has directed Victoria & Abdul to follow in the footsteps of his other similar films like Philomena and Florence Foster Jenkins. He has also already made a movie about a queen, be it a more current one, in 2006, called The Queen. I thought that he did a good job with this picture: the visuals were stunning and the pacing okay too.
  5. Judi Dench has already played Victoria in Mrs. Brown as well as other royal/aristocratic/historical figures in Shakespeare in LovePride & Prejudice, and even the recent Tulip Fever. She is also the current M in the 007 films (one of the best parts about them too). Her speech in the movie about being many things but insane was phenomenal. Ali Fazal has not appeared in many English-language films but I do hope that his appearance in this one will lead to more roles for him. Tim Pigott-Smith also appeared in the movie, in the last role of his career. Lastly, The Big Sick’s Adeel Akhtar played my favorite character in the film, who was both the comic relief and the voice of reason/truth in the movie. 

In short, Victoria & Abdul is a light-hearted and heartwarming true-ish tale that is both funny/entertaining and disturbing if you just think a bit more about it.

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: Victoria & Abdul trailer

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Movie review: Florence Foster Jenkins 

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Although the awards’ season doesn’t fully start until the late fall, some potential awards contenders have already had their premieres. I was lucky enough to attend one of such screenings, so, let’s talk about a movie that could possibly get some high brow nominations just because of who is involved in it, both in front and behind the camera. This is the review of Florence Foster Jenkins.

IMDb summary: The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

Writing

Florence Foster Jenkins was written by a TV screenwriter Nicholas Martin. This British comedy was based on a quite fascinating true story. The film mainly focused on its titular character, so the writing for the movie was essentially the writing for a specific character.

Florence Foster Jenkins is not a character or an actual person that anyone can like but that anyone can be intrigued by. She was a sweet eccentric. The first act of the film kinda made her into a laughable caricature – a singer that didn’t know that she couldn’t sing. However, the following two acts really added depth to her character and showed that she was actually a caring, friendly and generous individual that had been hurt in the past but didn’t allow these past troubles to define her. Of course, these positive appearances and the optimistic aura were only kept up because she was sheltered from all criticism. Moreover, nobody ever said no to her. Was that because she was sick or because she was rich? The cynic in me is leaning towards the second option but I really do hope that Florence had people in her life, who were taking caring of her out of the goodness of their hearts and not out of the emptiness of their pockets.

I, as a realist/pessimist, don’t think that being exposed to only good things is beneficial to anyone. However, it was advantageous to Florence – she lived her dream and died in it. She might haven’t known how to sing but nobody can’t say that she didn’t sing. I haven’t seen many films who presented music and life in a way that Florence Foster Jenkins did.

Directing

The film was directed by Stephen Frears, who previously directed such pictures as 2006’s awards contender and winner The Queen, 2013’s awards’ contender Philomena and last year’s Lance Armstrong biopic The Program. I wouldn’t be surprised if Florence Foster Jenkins gets a few nominations as well because it is a solid comedy with a very specific atmosphere. This atmosphere will either make you hate or love the movie. Basically, the movie Florence Foster Jenkins was oversaturated with poshness and aristocratic and rich aura. The sense of entitlement and high-class privilege were also abundant. This whole thing was quite laughable in today’s time or in any time for that matter. Since I don’t come from a background like this, that whole affair made me chuckle more than a couple of times. That’s why I think that Florence is a picture for a very specific audience, which is hard to define. If you come from a middle-class background, you will either love the movie and laugh a lot or you will hate it and be offended by it. I wonder how would the viewers from the upper class feel about it – would they see themselves on screen and love it? Or would they see this film as making fun of them?

As I have mentioned, I laughed a lot during this film. Not only did the actual singing scenes and the whole atmosphere were both funny – the reaction shots of the other characters were hilarious as well. Florence Foster Jenkins was both a feel-good and a heartbreaking movie that made me laugh and then put a sad smile on my face. It was nicely tied up with the photos of the real-life Florence during the credits.

Acting

Meryl Streep, of course, is the main awards’ whisperer for this film. She has been nominated for an Oscar 19 times and has won 3 times, the last one being in 2012. I would not be surprised if she gets another nomination because she was is magnificent in the film. It was very interesting to see arguably the best actress of this and the previous generation playing the role  of a terrible actress/singer. My first introduction to Streep as a performer was in the movie musical Mamma Mia – my favorite guilty pleasure film. In the past few years, she has gone back to this genre, with 2014’s Into The Woods, 2015’s Ricki and the Flash and now with Florence Foster Jenkins. Streep has also proved everyone that she can pick any role she likes and just nail it. I also think that if anybody else would have played Florence in this feature, I would have been super annoyed by her as a character. However, Streep added a lot of emotional depth to a seemingly vain caricature and actually made me care about Florence and her first world problems.

Hugh Gran starred as Florence’s last husband St Clair Bayfield. Their relationship was extremely interesting. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t fully figure out if St Clair and their whole friend circle were gold-diggers or did they actually cared about Florence? St Clair did have a girlfriend on a side but he was also always there for Florence – even on her death bed, so there are arguments both for and against the matter. A few of Grant’s films that I have been watching lately were Sense and Sensibility from the 90s as well as the last summer’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He also has co-starred in one of my favorite films of all time – Cloud Atlas.

The last main member of the cast – the pianist Cosmé McMoon was played by Simon Helberg. His reaction faces were both super awkward and marvelous. The way he was trying not to laugh was also amazing. I felt that the character of Cosmé was a stand-in for the viewer in the picture. The actor who played this role – Simon Helberg – is a talented TV comedian that has been part of the critically acclaimed The Big Bang Theory since 2007. 

In short, Florence Foster Jenkins was an extremely entertaining film that also made me think. I still have conflicting feelings about it and its narrative. I do wish that somebody would have told Florence the truth but, at the same time, I am happy that nobody did it and that she was allowed to live happily and freely as long as possible.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: Florence Foster Jenkins trailer

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