As Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) celebrates the 50th year of her reign, two Muslim Indians are chosen to present her with a commemorative coin. One of them is Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Abdul is excited at the chance to visit England and see the Queen, and in his excitement he forgets the most important rule and makes eye-contact with her. Instead of catastrophe, this leads to Victoria striking up a friendship with Abdul who teaches her about India and much more.
Victoria & Abdul left me deeply uncomfortable and its blatant ignorance of colonialism and the power structures involved – despite the topic at hand. That overshadowed everything else for me.
Plot: Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) loves singing opera and dreams of performing for a big crowd. And since she’s rich, she has the means to make her dreams come true, despite the fact that she can’t actually sing. Her husband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) is devoted to her and wants to make sure that she’ll be able to perform without being ridiculed. He hires pianist Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg) to practice with her and together the two men form an alliance to get Florence on the stage.
Florence Foster Jenkins didn’t blow me away, but it was a sweet and entertaining film that I enjoyed.
The Victome de Valmont (John Malkovich) and the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) are thick as thieves, united in their love to manipulate and destroy the people around them, a skill they have so artfully mastered that their ploys don’t fall back on them. Both have a new project: Valmont is trying to seduce Madame de Tourvel (MIchelle Pfeiffer) who is staying at his aunt’s (Mildred Natwick) summer home and who is widely known for her morals and her loyalty to her husband. The Marquise, on the other hand, is looking for revenge on an ex-lover who just got engaged to the naive Cécile (Uma Thurman) who has spent practically her entire life in a convent. So she enlists Valmont’s help to completely corrupt Cécile.
After having so recently seen the play that was the starting point for the film, I must say that I was very much disappointed by the movie. I thought John Malkovich was miscast and the film never really finds its step. Michelle Pfeiffer is a sparkling star in it, though.
Journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) is impressed by newcoming cyclist Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), but Lance’s career doesn’t quite take off. But Lance has the will to win. When he realizes that doctor Michele Ferrari (Guillaume Canet) has a special program – which consists of doping, among other things – Lance wants in on it. Ferrari declines at first but when Lance loses a lot of weight due to testicular cancer, Ferrari does see a viable candidate in him after all. Lance starts on the program, but Walsh grows suspicious of his incredible success and decided to investigate.
I couldn’t care less about cycling and I think doping is just stupid. These are not exactly the best starting points for watching the film and might explain the lengths I felt in an otherwise excellent movie.
Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a recently unemployed journalist, looking for a new challenge. When he is approached to write about the story of Philomena (Judi Dench), he is nevertheless hesitant. Philomena, now an old woman, had a child at a very young age (Sophie Kennedy Clark). That son was given away against her will by the nuns she lived with and worked for. And all of Philomena’s attempts to find him again were stonewalled. Since Martin can’t find a better story, he goes along with this one and finds himself very intrigued after a short while.
Philomena’s story is worth telling and the movie is engaging but I did think that it was missing a bit impact. Nevertheless it’s a sweet film with a nice sense of humor and a touching story.
Ewedown is a town in the middle of nowhere in England. In this town live the Hardiments. Nicholas (Roger Allam) is a successful writer, Beth (Tamsin Greig) runs the farm and on said farm, a writer’s retreat. They have if not exactly peace at least a constant routine. When the neighbor’s daughter Tamara (Gemma Arterton) returns after becoming a journalist and having a very advantageuous nose job done, things get shaken up quite a bit though.
I really liked Tamara Drewe. Though it may not be the best thing Stephen Frears has ever done, it was an entertaining, enjoyable romp with a good cast and good writing.
Belle Epoque in France. The ageing courtesan Léa (Michelle Pfeiffer) just ended her latest relationship and is considering her lifestyle: Is it really still necessary to do her job? What else would she do? It’s at that point that her best friend Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates) facilitates a meeting between Léa and Peloux’s son, Chéri (Rupert Friend). Chéri kind of ambles through life and doesn’t really know what to do with himself. His mother thinks that a relationship between him and Léa should be part of his education. And even though Lea is that much older than Chéri, things seem to work out perfectly.
Chéri surprised me. I didn’t expect much (I seem to have read only the bad reviews) but I got a delightful film with wonderful Wilde-esque dialogue, perfect performances, beautiful costumes and a great score (by Alexandre Desplat). It may not be the movie of the year, but it’s really good.