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VICTORIA & ABDUL is Perfection

vic

 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Stephen Frears and Focus Features is the story of an unlikely friendship between VICTORIA & ABDUL.

Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a clerk in a prison in India and his life is about to change. Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is to be given a tribute coin and Abdul is the tall man for the job. Along with a shorter Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), they sale toward England and Abdul is very excited.

There is no time for looking around much as Abdul and Mohammed are given a crash course on how to present to the Queen. Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) lets the two men know that everything is to be precise and quickly.

During the dinner, Abdul and Mohammed make their way toward Queen Victoria and after a quick nap the presentation is made. Walking backwards, Abdul does the unthinkable and makes eye contact and gives a smile to the Queen and what turns into one moment becomes an unlikely friendship.

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Much to the horror of Sir Ponsonby and Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) as well as her ladies Lady Churchill (Olivia Williams) and Miss Phipps (Fenella Woolgar), the Queen begins to prefer the company of Abdul. They inform the Queen’s son Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and a plan is formed.

Queen Victoria asks Abdul about his land, language and his story as they share walks and private times. It is clear that Abdul cares very much for the Queen and she for him, especially discovering he is married and demanding he get his family and return. That doesn’t stop the Queen’s staff, along with Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), from looking into Abdul’s past. Believing they can stop him with what they know, it only manages to infuriate the Queen in Abdul’s favor.

Including a knighthood which sends the entire palace into a tizzy and a decision that will not only put their loyalty in question but show how Queen Victoria wasn’t napping any longer.

This is a friendship that is filled with understanding, forgiveness and even unspoken love.

Dench once again proves why she is a queen in her own right. She is smart, strong, delicate, wistful and a woman who sees so little to move forward for. Once the Queen’s inner light is ignited, Dench shines every moment of the film. I quite honestly could not take my eyes off her performance and the ending brought me to tears.

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Karim as Fazal is a man who doesn’t see the world in such an aggressive way as those around him. A simple jail clerk who happens to know how to write is sent across the world to do one simple thing and it turns into a friendship. Fazal delivers his lines with the innocence I see in Abdul in that how one sees the world is clearly different than the Queen. There are moments where he is clearly confused, moments of profound joy and deep sadness and Fazal gets every drop of emotion out of the audience who is just as enraptured as the Queen.

Izzard as Bertie is just the worst that a son could possible be. Instead of being happy for the emotional reviving of his mother, he sees Abdul as an interloper and acts like a spoiled child instead of a future ruler. Izzard just pours it on and gets the reaction he wants!

Akhtar as Mohammed just wants to go home, and when he sees that the Prince and others want to use that against his friend Abdul – his response is epic! Pigott-Smith as Ponsonby is confused by the relationship between the Queen and Abdul but at the same time has a faithfulness to the way things ought to be done. Higgins as Dr. Reid is just another lackey who isn’t happy about Abdul’s presence and finds himself faced with the wrath of the Queen. Gambon as Salisbury wants one thing only – for Abdul to be gone and the crown to go back to normal.

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Williams as Lady Churchill isn’t happy to have the Queen’s ear and convinces Miss Phipps to do the extortion deed. Woolgar as Phipps has a moment in front of the Queen that is nerve wracking to watch but awesome to experience.

Other cast include Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke, Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge, Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck, Sukh Ojla as Mrs. Karim, Kemaal Deen-Ellis as Ahmed and Simon Callow as Puccini.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give VICTORIA & ABDUL five tubs of popcorn out of five. There is nothing about this film that goes wrong with me. The story between Queen Victoria and Abdul is delightful, funny, testing, sad, misunderstood and heartbreaking.

Mixed in with that is the ugliness of those around the Queen with their jabbing, back biting, underhanded, and horrible treatment of Abdul and Mohammed. Instead of embracing the cultural differences of these two men, they found ways to cut them to the quick – and right to their face in some cases.

The cinematography is amazing and it is a period piece which is going to grab me from the word go. I absolutely adore the costuming which is always an important part of a period piece because it adds such a richness to the storytelling.

I’m warning anyone who sees the film to keep a Kleenex handy because for the ending you are going to need it. The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is everything I wanted for this story to be told – thank you both for making me laugh, smile and shed a tear.

In the end – this is a friendship based on a true story…well, mostly.

SPLIT Blurs Fantasy and Reality on DVD

split

 

Jeri Jacquin

On DVD from director/writer Deborah Kampmeier and Candy Factory Films is a look at the life of a young woman trying to mend from the SPLIT.

Inanna (Amy Ferguson) is a young girl living the life of a dancer at night and a performance artist in the day. She finds herself infatuated with Derek (Morgan Spector) a man who doesn’t realize she is a dancer in the club he visits.

Seeing Derek at rehearsal for a play by Athena (Joan MacIntosh), she realizes that he is making the masks for the show. Taking the opportunity to get to know him, it is instantaneous that he asks her to marry him.

Aware that Derek is an artist it is also clear he has serious insecurity issues wanting Inanna to stop being in the play. Believing that love should keep them together, Inanna allows herself to be disrespected at every turn. Even her friend Anja knows what is happening and tries to make Inanna aware of it.

But she has come to slowly realize that this play is something that is about to change her life but she must have the courage to embrace it.

Love starts with ones self!

Ferguson as Inanna is certainly a young woman who is trying to grow but her life is running in so many different directions. This actress shows every bit of the confusion on her face and eyes which is spectacular. I so appreciate her performance and as she awakens during the play, it is done elegantly and with heart.

Spector as Derek is an artist who has a clear vision of his work just not a clear vision about life, love and respect. I have to admit that if I knew someone like Derek I’d probably lose my mind. In his own swirl of darkness he seems complacent about what is happening to Inanna because to think he didn’t care would be almost cruel.

MacIntosh as Athena is a woman knowing that Inanna has the ability to bring ever bit of herself to a role that bares everything – literally. Her belief in this young girl grows with every moment of rehearsal until the opening night performance that is just amazing.

Mouglalis as Anja  knows that the life Inanna is a part of is not one she should be. Sharing her fears about Derek is absolutely what a friend would and should do and I applauded her doing just that.

Other cast include Fredric Lehne as Dave, Raina von Waldenburg as Iris, Antonia Hughes as Shelley, Jennifer Onvie as Lil, Sophia Oppenheim as Sonia, Rutanya Alda as Melissa, Samia Akudo as Mariama, Jason Alazraki as John and Richard Aldis as Gerard.

Candy Factory Films is a forward-thinking, filmmaker-friendly company dedicated to producing unique and compelling films. Candy Factory is at the forefront of a new vanguard reaching distinct audiences. With award-winning and acclaimed films across every genre, Candy Factory is committed to creating and fostering communities around independent and progressive cinema. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.candyfactoryfilms.com.

SPLIT is so many things in one film. It is the story of a young woman trying to discover her own potential, self worth and limits. Mixed in between that is that same journey of all the women of the show Inanna is in.

Take that harshness and wrap it up in the raw fear, frustration and longing of a theatre performance that brings all of these women together. With the music that is ethereal and moving, this film brings together every emotion that women try to hide.

Although there is nudity of the women performing, it becomes buried down the line of what the film is trying to convey. It is important to be aware of the nudity but do not let it sway you from experiencing the film. There is intergenerational and multiracial women of all different body types to be sure and that is absolutely worthy of kudos.

SPLIT is part of Kampmeier trilogy including HOUNDDOG in 2007 and VIRGIN in 2003. She is an award winning filmmaker and theatre director and has written/directed short films. For more of the work Kampmeier continues to do please visit www.fullmoonfilmsny.com.

In the end – she must claim herself!

DOUGH Brings a Different Kind of Sweet!

Dough poster

 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director John Goldschmidt and Menemsha Films is an endearing look at life and friendship from the most unlikely places when handling DOUGH.

Widower Nat (Jonathan Pryce) runs the Dayan & Son Bakery bread shop in the same building for more years than the neighborhood can remember. Up early each day, he runs the business catering to his customers

Ayyash (Jerome Holder) is a young man trying to help his mother Safa (Natasha Gordon) makes ends meet. The problem is the way he is doing it isn’t exactly legal. When trouble comes knocking, Safa knows her son must find a job and stay away from his friends.

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That’s how Nat and Shaun come together, when Safa learns that Nat is needing someone to help in his shop. Trying to keep his head down and away from the law, Shaun learns the trade of making break. That doesn’t stop him for selling a little marijuana on the side.

After an accident with a bag of week and a mixing bowl of bread, new costumers are running to the store to order more of the amazing bread! Victor Gerrard (Ian Hart) isn’t happy about this since he wants to put Nat out of business. Now he will do everything possible to bring down the happy bakeshop.

When a Jewish Baker and a Muslim boy come together – the world is their bread!

Pryce as Nat is just so absolutely loveable, even for a cranky man. He is set in his ways and when stressed he can lose his dough pretty quick. I can’t help myself, when it comes to Pryce I love his amazing ability to play so many different characters and make each one totally its very own. DOUGH just cements his standing in my book.

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Holder as Ayyash gives a stunning performance that should be taken seriously. Here is a young man who brings so much emotion as a young boy trying to find his way in the world, especially coming from Darfur where things were already so very wrong. This young actor not only has comedic timing but the ability to bring out strong emotions from the audience.

Putting these two actors together in this film is a brilliant move and draws the viewer into a story that is both serious and funny at the same time. That’s hard to do but Pryce and Holder do it wonderfully!

This 277 minute DVD is not for the weak of side as the laughs are going to put you down with giggle.

Other cast include: Daniel Ben Zenou as Rabbi, Andy de la Tour as Saul Goodwyn, John Voce as Rodney, Daniel Caltagirone as Stephen, Philip Davis as Sam Botton and Pauline Collins as Joanna.

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TUBS OF POPCORN: I give DOUGH four tubs of popcorn out of five. I really enjoyed this film on so many levels. It is endearing, smart, funny and well told with a cast bring it home to the heart. Bringing the love of food in the story brings together these two very diverse and different people. That being said what brings people together more than food – especially bread.

Pryce is just amazing as Nat being the grouchy baker who just wants to keep his business going. Not expecting help from come from a young man from Darfur, Ayyash brings in his own grouchiness born out of misplaced anger. These two are perfect for each other and that’s what gives this film the right amount of awesomeness.

In the end – you don’t have to be baked to make some dough!

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