Monday, April 18, 2011

The King's Speech

Tom Hooper, 2010 (7.8*)
In spite of a stellar cast, and all the awards it's now won for best picture of 2010, this is primarily a boring, one-trick pony of a film with little real drama, since we already know the outcome (well, except for the history illiterates - this is basic World War Two history, everyone should know it by now).

Colin Firth plays Prince Albert (of England, naturally), who is being forced by his father, King George V, to give public addresses in spite of his public stutter (or is it stammer? he doesn't start a word over and over, he pauses and has a hard time continuing, so there are lengthy silences that try everyone's patience). His wife, Helena Bonham Carter, who earns perhaps the easiest Oscar® nomination of her career for supporting, seeks the help of a speech therapist, Geoffrey Rush (who also executive produced, and who also had an easy part for an Oscar® nomination), an emigre from Australia who had success with World War One battle victims, including those who lost their voice after gas attacks.

Rush proceeds to give the future King George VI a series of unorthodox speech lessons, which unfortunately comprise about 2/3 of this film. Jaw loosening babbling, rolling on the floor, screaming obscenities, other inane treatments. The other 1/3 is the more interesting - how his brother David (Guy Pearce, in perhaps the most interesting role in the film, but they waste the opportunity) first took the throne after George V's death, but then refused to give up an affair with a divored American woman and was forced to abdicate the throne, thus making Prince Albert the new King George.

The only real life in this film is when Michael Gambon is onscreen as the irascible old king, who yells at "Bertie", as the family calls him, "Out with it man! Like a good Englishman", as if berating and yelling at a stutterer will suddenly snap him out of it, like an army recruit at boot camp. Gambon plays the 'old school' style of monarch, the sword-bearing, duel-fighting type of soldier from un-mechanized centuries of war, and certain things royalty just didn't do, such as stutter, fail to bear whatever comes, fool around, or get divorced.

Well done technically, with an excellent, though pretty much untaxed cast (only Firth had to do much, and all he did was change his speech rhythms, and get slightly angry once or twice, but little else - a pretty easy Oscar if you ask me), this is only going to be interesting to history buffs, Anglophiles, and those who still think the motion picture academy chooses the best films for awards. It's obvious from this choice and Crash in 2006 that there's some behind the scenes wrangling going on, with favors called in, studio block voting and perhaps 'teams' formed, etc.. it's like any other politics, the winners aren't often based on merit, but how many votes that side can muster.

King's Speech won 47 awards out of 137 nominations, including four Oscars® (Picture, director, actor, screenplay). It's now ranked #103 on the IMDB top 250 (but well behind Inception at #6, Toy Story 3 at #33, and even lower than Black Swan at #73, to compare it with the other big films of 2010. Social Network is #190, but did win 84 awards, far and away the most of 2010).

Not a bad movie, just not a great one either, not worthy of this many awards in a season with better films: Inception (2010), Toy Story 3 (2011), Winter's Bone (2010), The Social Network (2010), Black Swan (2010), Inside Job (2010).


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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