16 February 2011

Three Times: The King's Speech

Three reasons to begrudge The King's Speech for existing:

1. The key line in the poster above: "Based on the Incredible True Story." It should read: "Man with Infinite Resources Overcomes Stammer." Very credibly.

2. The King's Speech is a transparent, awards-grabbing "prestige picture." With all caveats about how the Oscars are a joke anyway, it would be a shame if, in a year when America produced two excellent films (The Social Network and Winter's Bone), the biggest award went to a profoundly mediocre British movie. The Academy is also locked into a pattern of awarding "make up call" Best Actor and Actress statuettes to people who probably should have gotten Oscars before. In this case I'm almost okay with it, as Colin Firth (as the only-interesting-because-he-stutters King Bertie) will win even though he really earned his award for A Single Man last year. Geoffrey Rush, as the speech (and several other kinds of) therapist Lionel Logue, could well pull down Best Supporting for general cheeky Australianess.

3. The entirety of the film is contained in the trailer. For viewers with even a passing familiarity with 20th century English history and the conventions of the biopic genre, there is not a single surprise in The King's Speech. And all the big, "meaningful" lines are in the preview as well (many of these are terrible, see below).

Three visual elements that confirm Tom Hooper should stick to directing television:

1. There's one laughable shot where Bertie's head is entirely blocked from view by a gramophone. The irony! Only the machine can make itself heard!

2. The fact that we cut and back and forth to a kettle on the fire as Lionel (literally!) brings his first conversation with Bertie to a boil.

3. Hooper waffles between different visual styles from sequence to sequence. In what I can only assumes are attempts at grandeur, he frequently employs a retreating camera for long shots.  Except the camera doesn't track backwards smoothly, nor does it bounce up and down quite enough for a true handheld feel. Everything he does, he does in half measures. Even simple two shots of characters talking are poorly framed right into the actors' jowls.

Three most wince-inducing lines of dialogue in The King's Speech:

1. Lionel: "Why should I waste my time listening to you?"
Bertie: "Because I have a voice!"
Lionel: "...Yes, you do."

2. [royal family inexplicably watching clip of Hitler speechifying]
Little Girl: "What's he saying?"
Bertie: "I don't know but... he seems to be saying it rather well."

3. Lionel [to Bertie in regards to a King George V coin on the table]: "You don't need to carry him around in your pocket."

Three reasons we should have seen a film starring Guy Pearce instead:

1. Guy Pearce plays the reluctant King Edward VIII, whose life is actually interesting. While we worry about how Bertie pronounces words beginning with "P," Edward provides the pithy response, "kinging," to a query about how he's spending his time. His answer points to the two proper activities for onscreen royalty: nation building and fornicating.

2. Edward's lady of Shanghai, Wallis Simpson, is played by Eve Best with the sauciness we used to see from Helena Bonham Carter, wasted as Bertie's boring scold of a wife. The best sequence in the film is centered on Edward and Wallis, clearcutting ancient firs and scouring the ancestral mansion for the best bottle of champagne.
3. But I'll be honest. I really love Pearce in The King's Speech for his natty attire. His aviator outfit is a sheepskinned dream, his tweeds hang just so and my foremost life goal is to one day own a cabled sweatervest half as luxurious as his.

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