DATELINE: Early Dench Victoria
Dench as younger Queen Victoria
Count on us to have it backwards. Judi Dench first played Queen Victoria over twenty years ago in Mrs. Brown. Her recent foray into the royal personage in Victoria and Abdul is a re-boot. We reviewed the later performance before the older.
Mrs. Brown is given a new title on your streaming list: it is inexplicably called Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown. The title of Mrs. Brown is what the detractors called the Queen, owing to her relationship to the horse whisperer from Scotland. No, she never married him, except in spirit.
Like Helen Mirren and her reprisals as Queen Elizabeth I and II, Judi Dench has made Queen Victoria Regina all her own.
The earlier depiction showed Victoria in the years after the death of Prince Albert, her beloved consort and time in which she was in deep mourning and totally inconsolable.
Enter a Scotsman who was Albert’s equestrian expert, a commoner with brutish manners by the common name of John Brown. Gerard Butler is nearly unrecognizable as the younger brother footman, Archie Brown.
Her royal society is scandalized as Brown consolidates power in her friendship. Billy Connolly is suitably kilt-worn and boor before the Boer War. He oversteps his bounds ultimately.
Whether the intimate twosome were romantically involved or whether Victoria was simply a lonely widow who needed companionship, the film coyly dances around.
The other characters clearly think her loose with her trappings.
One of the most amusing, and bemused, of the observers is Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Antony Sher) played with a perpetual smug as a canary-eating cat. Sher’s delightful performance gives the film a modern sensibility and balance.
Once again, we have a well-produced movie with Queen Victoria smarter than her subjects, the film’s subject, and even smarter than the script. This movie is Downton Abbey on a regal scale.
You will find another bio-film worth your time. Judi Dench is at the top of her game.