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Mrs. Brown Movie Review

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When Queen Victoria's doctor told her that her days of bearing children were over, she cried, “Oh, Doctor, can I have no more fun in bed?” Despite this reported incident, and many examples in the Queen's own writing of her deep physical attraction to Prince Albert and their sensual love life, the Victorians and their era have acquired an undeserved reputation for prudishness. John Madden's movie Mrs. Brown, scripted by Jeremy Brock, shows that Victoria did not spend the last 40 years of her life mourning the death of her young husband without consolation. Judi Dench, then 62, plays Victoria between the ages of 45 and 64 and Billy Connolly, 54, ages from 38 to 57 as her beloved servant, John Brown. Victoria seems to have been the only person who DID think that Brown was beloved. Everyone else at Court hated him cordially, especially the Queen's son Bertie, the future Edward VII, who was between the ages of 23 and 42 during Brown's era of enormous influence over his mother. Bertie had his own problems during those years. He was involved in no less than three major scandals at ages 27, 34, and 39, but Madden's film simply shows him chafing at the bit for the long-distant days when he, too, can tell everyone what to do. (At 30, Bertie inadvertently stemmed the Republican tide by nearly dying of typhoid. Victoria came out of seclusion to celebrate his recovery and a grateful nation forgot about overturning the monarchy for the rest of the Queen's reign.) John Brown was a rough, wild character, who spoke his mind without hesitation, and won Victoria's adoration. Although the film doesn't suggest any bedtime frolics (which were highly unlikely, actually), it does make it clear that Victoria was head over heels in love with Brown and his feelings for her bordered on worship. This did not prevent him from bluntly ordering her about all the time, which seems to have been part of the attraction. Dench, a wonderful stage star too little seen in films, makes a splendid Victoria, and Connolly gives Brown a certain ragged charm. One isolated incident suggests that his reputation for fighting and drunkenness was engineered by others and THAT is highly unlikely, actually. There are too many documented incidents of his feisty personality and alcoholic intake for the filmmakers to embroider a terribly persuasive new legend that Victoria and Brown were star-crossed lovers, torn apart by others. One of the best performances is delivered by Antony Sher as Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81). Sher, 48, who once played Ringo Starr on stage, nails the consummate politician as an alert listener, always telling the right people at the right time exactly what they need to hear. If Mrs. Brown looks and sounds like a Masterpiece Theatre production, that's because it IS, released in the heart of the very commercial summer of 1997 for reasons best known to its distributor. U.S. audiences fell head over heels in love with it and Dench won an Oscar nomination.

1997 (PG) 103m/C GB Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Geoffrey Palmer, Anthony Sher, Richard Pasco, Gerard Butler, David Westhead; D: John Madden; W: Jeremy Brock; C: Richard Greatrex; M: Stephen Warbeck. British Academy Awards ‘97: Best Actress (Dench), Best Costume Design; Golden Globe Awards ‘98: Best Actress—Drama (Dench); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘97: Best Actress (Dench), Best Makeup; British Academy Awards ‘97: Best Actor (Connolly), Best Film, Best Original Screenplay; Screen Actors Guild Award ‘97: Best Actress (Dench), Best Supporting Actor (Connolly). VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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