2017 Awards Profile: ‘Victoria and Abdul’ From Focus Features, Starring Judi Dench

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Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Victoria and Abdul”
PRODUCERS: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Louis Phillips and Tracey Seaward
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features

DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
WRITERS: Lee Hall and Shrabani Basu (based on the book by)

CAST: Olivia Williams, Judi Dench, Michael Gambon, Eddie Izzard, Ali Fazal

SYNOPSIS (via IMDb): Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: Stephen Frears will most likely be up for another directing nomination. Frears has been nominated twice already for Best Director. The first time was in 1991 for “The Grifters” and most recently, for “The Queen” in 2007, which also earned star Helen Mirren her first Oscar win as the titular royal.

Frears has a knack for directing leading actresses who later go on to earn Oscar nominations. Such was the case with Meryl Streep last year with the musical comedy “Florence Foster Jenkins” and Judi Dench in the search-for-answers drama “Philomena” in 2014. Frears teams up with Dench again in “Victoria and Abdul” – a role that oozes with potential awards for Dench.

Other actors to look at are Michael Gambon who, if you can believe it, has yet to be nominated for an Oscar.  Ali Fazal, who plays the Queen’s confidant, is not a newcomer, but he’s relatively unknown. He had a small role in Universal’s “Furious 7” in 2015, with most of his acting credits being roles in Indian films and series. His American career could change depending on this role.

Writer Lee Hall, best known for his book “Billy Elliot,” which he later adapted into a screenplay that earned him an Oscar nomination in 2001, is back once again. With the right script and narrative, he could have voters looking at him again.

In the more technical categories, “Victoria and Abdul” is surely in contention for its visuals. Production design, hair and makeup, and costume design are sure to be considered, with categories like film editing and cinematography more of a stretch but possible. Editor Melanie Oliver and cinematographer Danny Cohen previously worked together on “Les Misérables.” The two have also worked on some of this century’s most-notable British period pieces which include “The Danish Girl,” “Anna Karenina” and “The King’s Speech,” which earned Cohen his first Oscar nomination in 2011.

Thomas Newman is doing original music and with his incomparable track-record (14 nominations, 13 of which were in the Original Score category) is almost certain to be nominated for his fifteenth time.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: It’s easy to look at a film and predict possible Oscar nominations – especially with such an Oscar bait-y movie such as this – and it’s another to actually expect it to nab any awards on the big night.

It’s looking like Dench will most certainly be nominated, based on the Academy love for these type of British royal roles, but she has tough competition ahead.  Notably Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”), Rooney Mara (“Mary Magdalene”), Kate Winslet (“The Mountain Between Us” and “Wonder Wheel”) and Emma Stone (“Battle of the Sexes”). “Victoria and Abdul” has the potential to be over-hyped because of who’s attached and end up forgotten about when March ends. For this reason, a nomination in Best Picture and Best Director categories can be expected, but unlikely to be conducive of any wins.

Hall struck gold with “Billy Elliot,” even spawning a popular musical out of it, but “War Horse” was an insipid bio that left many Spielberg fans desiring more. If the script falls flat, there’s little chance that any actors other than Dench will get recognized and the top category (Best Picture) pretty much goes out the window.

Worse case scenario, “Victoria and Abdul” could end up being a stylish, vapid vehicle for Dench. Even then, it still stands to receive a few mentions along the way.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Best Picture – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Beeban Kidron, Louis Phillips and Tracey Seaward
  • Actress in a Leading Role – Judi Dench
  • Actor in a Supporting Role – Ali Fazal and Michael Gambon
  • Cinematography – Danny Cohen
  • Costume Design – Consolata Boyle
  • Directing – Stephen Frears
  • Film Editing – Melanie Oliver
  • Makeup and Hairstyling – Beverley Binda (key makeup artist)
  • Music (Original Score) – Thomas Newman
  • Production Design – Alan MacDonald
  • Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – Lee Hall and Shrabani Basu

Share your thoughts in the comments on the message forums!

And be sure to check the Oscar Predictions to see where “Victoria and Abdul” rank.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE |DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING |
MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
| DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE |

  • Rory Glynn

    Could you do an awards profile for “Mudbound”?