“Victoria & Abdul” – A Royal Friendship Swept Under the (Persian) Carpet

It is difficult to express how much this movie exceeded my expectations.  Of course from the previews and the photo ads I knew it was going to be a historical tale of two friends, maybe even two lovers.  I was expecting the royal charm that it did, in fact deliver, but I had no idea that it would be so funny.  “Victoria & Abdul,” a Focus Features film, is as much a charmingly fun movie as it is a bit of a heart-wrenching one.

Historically, and to her subjects, Queen Victoria has been made out to be somewhat of a callous, uncaring ruler, but in “Victoria & Abdul,” we see her in a totally different light.  No better actress could have been chosen to play the Queen than, Dame Judi Dench.  To say she is stupendous in this role would be an understatement. Danny Cohen, the cinematographer, should be commended for the beautiful scenery which at times, especially during the harbor scenes, felt as if postcards were coming to life.

Ali Fazal plays Abdul Karim, who was sent from India in 1887 to present Queen Victoria with a special coin called a Mohur, which was minted in honor of her “Golden Jubilee” (a celebration commemorating her 50th anniversary as Queen.) He’s given specific instructions not to make eye contact with her, as is the rule for all non-royals. Somehow, he manages to catch her eye, she finds this amusing and their friendship ensues. Queen Victoria is so intrigued and becomes so obsessed with Abdul that the royal household thinks she’s lost her mind. Director, Stephen Frears, uses the artistry of close-ups to give the audience and intimate view of the Queen’s feelings and true personality.  I personally thought the movie portrayed Queen Victoria as someone who, despite her position of power, was also humble and tolerant of racial differences way ahead of her time.

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Abdul teaches Queen Victoria how to write in Arabic

Queen Victoria was the Empress of India, but had never been there because her court feared she would be assasinated.  When Abdul comes to the palace, she is fascinated by his knowledge of history, culture, language, and the Muslim religion and she wants to learn about all of it. She quickly promotes him from servant to teacher; she even gives him his own servant.  To the disappointment of her son, future King Edward VII (“Bertie,”) played by Eddie Izzard, who is a dead ringer for the real the Edward VII, the Queen continually uses her power to bestow royal titles upon Abdul, sometimes even referring to him as “son.”  

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Actual photo of Queen Victoria working with Abdul ready to assist. 

When the Queen passed away and Edward VII became King, he did everything in his power to sweep Victoria and Abdul’s relationship “under the rug,” but nearly 100 years later, a journalist named Shrabani Basu discovered the story and wrote the book on which the movie is based.  I think you’ll find “Victoria & Abdul” amusing and a “feel good” movie to watch with the family.  Note, it’s rated PG-13.

Are you planning to see it? Check back and let me know what you think by posting your comments. – BMT

 

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Movie Review – “Kevin Hart: What Now” #HittingTheatersThisFriday

Kevin Hart, Ride Along Red Carpet Premiere, Sydney Australia

Image from wikimedia.org

I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to have a stroke!  True story – “Kevin Hart: What Now” is hilarious.  I really did feel as if I was going to bust blood vessels from laughing!

I purposely left a set in between me and the first group of people in my row (I would have given the seat up if someone needed it, but it never came to that) because I was worried that the people sitting next to me were going to get mad at me. “Reason why is” I can’t watch Kevin Hart and not crack-up and when I crack-up, it’s LOUD! However, there were two seats on the other side of me.  Two nice young women asked if they were open, so of course I said, “yes.” I struck up a conversation with them about how much I loved Kevin Hart.  Luckily, one of them (the one sitting closest to me) saw him live and was a big fan.  As soon as the movie began, I was so happy she sat next to me because Kevin did what he does best – – make us laugh!

Kevin was firing off one funny “true story” after another; each one funnier than the last and the two of us were screaming with laughter from the very first joke!  It was as if she was my “sista from another mista” because she laughed just as loud as I did, she held her stomach and moaned from the laughter pains, just like me!  She even sat up trying to get air, just like me!  The movie was so funny that so many times I laughed so hard that no sound came out, because I was losing oxygen (she did the same thing!) We weren’t just laughing, we were losing our minds and it was the best feeling ever!!  I can truthfully say, I never laughed so hard and so much at a movie, in my life and having a “laughing partner” felt so liberating!  Of course, the rest of the theater was laughing too, so there was no way they could get mad at me.  Honestly, you’d have to have been in a coma not to laugh.

“What Now” is somewhat of a documentary movie.  It is Kevin’s stand-up comedy routine, which he performed in front of a record-breaking, sold-out crowd of 50,000 at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 30, 2015. It was the first time in history that a comedian sold out a football stadium.  Kevin wants to make history again by breaking box-office records for this opening weekend by showing the film around the world.  If you follow @kevinhart4real, he’s asking everyone to help him make history this weekend. He’s using the hash tag – #ComedicRockStarShit for all posts related to “What Now.”

The movie can also fit into the action, drama, and comedy, movie genres.  It opens with a James Bond-like title sequence.  At first, you will think it’s an action comedy.  For the first ten minutes or so, it’s a comedic parody of a Bond movie, featuring Halle Berry as herself but as Kevin’s “Bond-girl.”  Kevin is agent 0054! This movie within the movie satirizes all of the cliché things that happen in spy movies.  For example, there’s a room labeled, something like “convenient changing room with clothes that fit Kevin Hart!”  There is even a bloody shootout scene, which is rather gross and actually made me and my “sista” cover our eyes.  Therefore, besides for the language, the bloody scene also makes this an adult only movie.

When the “mission” is accomplished, Halle and Kevin make it to the venue, where Kevin shoots up an elevator shaft onto the stage, and the concert begins.  It was so awesome  to see the aerial shots of the sold-out stadium!  Kevin teared-up when he took his final bows.  You can tell how grateful he is to have been able to go back to his hometown and sell out the stadium. It was as if that moment was when he realized he made it as a star!  It’s inspiring to see someone who has worked hard, realize his dream.  I also have a lot of respect for big stars who are not afraid to be humble.  My favorite part, which made me love Kevin even more, was just before he left the stage and thanked the crowd.  He told the audience to “look around,”  he said, “I see every race, ethnicity, and nationality possible.  I see some of everybody. We all came under the same roof and we laughed tonight.  If you can laugh together, you can live together; if you can live together, you can love together.  I live by those rules and I’ll be damned if I didn’t see that s**t here tonight. . . in my city I made history. . .and this has been the best night of my f**’n life. ..” You can actually find video of this moment posted by a fan on YouTube.  I didn’t post the link here because I try to keep my content PG-13.

When the Universal Pictures studio representative asked what I thought of the movie, I told him that I thought I was going to have a stroke and that I was so lucky the girl next to me laughed as loud as I did.  He replied, “everyone was laughing.”  They were; the room was roaring with laughter for the entire run of the film!  The stand-up routine is full of so many funny and animated stories about Kevin’s kids, his “lady,” his dad, and his friends, all prefaced with “true story.”  Kevin says he doesn’t lie, “unless the truth is not believable!” I don’t want to give away and jokes or punch lines, you have to see this movie for yourself.  Please remember it’s rated –R; it’s not for kids and if you get offended by foul language, then it’s not for you.  If you are a Kevin Hart fan, the answer to the question, “What Now?” is go buy your tickets!  “Kevin Hart: What Now” opens Friday! Don’t miss it! – BMT

P.S.  Don’t get up when the credits start rolling, there’s more movie! As always, please let me know what you think. – Beth