Friday, October 13, 2017

Better Than The Critics Said - Victoria and Abdul - Mostly Spoiler Free Movie Ryview

Victoria and Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears.

Please note: This is a Mostly Spoiler Free Ryview, meaning I will spoil some minor early plot points to better expand on my opinions. By no means am I ruining all the twists and turns, but if you want to remain in the dark, you may proceed with gouging out your eyes (or, you know, closing the article).

Victoria and Abdul is a historical piece centered around an Indian man who is brought over to present a coin to Queen Victoria, picked largely due to his height. This random chance leads to a close relationship he shares with Victoria, much to the chagrin of the extremely racist British of the time period.

I want to go ahead and acknowledge the mediocre reviews that this film has received. Many have called it a trite, poorly executed movie that fails to display racism in its proper light, or that it's far too fanciful to be enjoyed. I disagree.

First off, let's go in reverse order because fuck convention, the movie starts off with "This movie is based on true events...mostly". That 'mostly' line gives it creative license to do whatever the hell they want for the most part. Oh, it's not 100% accurate to the letter of what happened? You mean Queen Victoria wasn't literally Judi Dench in a time machine? Well I never!!!1! Get over it people. If you look at the source material (which are largely recovered journals from Abdul I believe), it's pretty true to the way he remembers it. And even if that's not that close to reality, not knowing any of the story walking in, I found it to be a very enjoyable movie.

To the next point, I think racism in the movie was handled quite realistically. The British are portrayed as knowing very little about the Indian people they conquered and exhibit some serious racist tendencies. And if you watch this movie and you're response is "Abdul did fine, racism didn't exist" then you definitely don't understand how racism works. It's painful obvious throughout the movie that most of the British people portrayed despise the Indian people, and even one of the Indian characters clearly and vocally despises the British. Abdul had a pretty awesome relationship with the Queen, but the point was that it wasn't typical. It was taboo.

Now, I do highly doubt that Queen Victoria was as "good" as she was portrayed in the movie. I assume she was a bit more racist and cruel than the film let on, but once again, look at the source material: this story was largely from journals of a guy who absolutely adored the queen. Obviously he would paint her in a good light. And if that's the main liberty taken with the film, I don't really find that particularly upsetting.

The idea that this film tries to fix racism, or say that it wasn't all that bad, to me means that those reviewers didn't watch the same movie.

Getting into some more specifics about the actual film (rather than a Ryan Rant), I think another reason it falls flat with some is that it's quite British. The pacing, humor, and acting is all generally fairly dry. I was tittering the whole time, but it's because the whole thing seemed farcical at times. It wasn't a "haha" kind of film but I would still call it a comedy for the most part. And the direction was pretty spot on. None of the acting seemed wooden or forced, I thought the movie had a nice flow, and the editing was tight.

I think you should all see this movie. It was a well acted, well written, and well directed film. I enjoyed myself. No, the movie doesn't solve racism, nor do I think it was trying to. Hell, it takes place in 1901 and India won its independence in 1947. What did they expect?

Anyway, go see the movie. I think you'll like it.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Until next time,


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