I’m behind the times. The Academy Awards debuted months ago and Oscar ate up everything The King’s Speech had to offer. This had some people in all out rage as they felt that Christopher Nolan was snubbed by not getting anything for Inception, and many thought The Social Network was film that defined a generation and had the Oscar in the bag. However, when the Weinstien’s kicked out The King’s Speech it started to become clearer by the minute this was the film the stuffy old guy’s club (also known as the Academy of Motion Pictures) was going to give their top honors to. To me- it looked “bloody boring.” It was a show that I promised, I’d get around to one day and put it on the end of a long list of movies to see. To fill in the gap, I was lucky enough to have BoxOfficeBoredom.com’s official British correspondent (and writer for his own site, The Wild Bore), Sam LeGassick, write a review for The King’s Speech for our site to fill the gap. Thanks again for that Sam – and God save the Queen- or whatever else you say to British blokes who write about cinema.
When I finally did sit down with the DVD -courtesy of my favorite little red envelope DVD by mail service- I found myself actually really enjoying The King’s Speech. Colin Firth does a great job, but the real stand out performance of the film was Geoffrey Rush. Rush is what makes this film entertaining. With out him this film seems to be a very slow burn film gravitating around a lead who is an incredible bore. Colin Firth is the actor you get when you want a Brit who isn’t as “hip and cool” as Hugh Grant. In other words, think Hugh Grant with a stick shoved promptly up his backside. He walks a little funny, talks a little funny and plays roles where he is just a tiny bit too uppity for your liking. In The King’s Speech this works for Firth though. I have never been in the presence of royalty, but I have a feeling there is a tad bit of a superiority complex that surrounds the royal family.
What I found to be the most interesting part of The King’s Speech was the camera angles. I found the angles interesting so much so that I may have missed parts of the film where I should have been paying attention. This stylistic choice by director Tom Hooper and his cinematographer seemed odd and un-natural. It was like their camera was on wiggly tri-pod that kept falling out of frame and no one bothered to fix it. Characters found themselves framed either on the lower half, or left or right third of the frame. (see picture on right as examples) Rarely did you see someone straight on centered in frame. Many times I felt like they told a 7 foot tall man to balance a camera on his shoulder and film 5 foot people. The end result, was a lot of scenery and people framed from the upper torso/shoulder area up during dialouge. In other instances, I found the camera drifted too far left or right, diverting the center focus to a blank wall, a coffee table or a lamp instead of the person talking who was on the right or left third of the screen. This theme carries throughout the entire film, so it was obviously a stylistic choice by the director. What confuses me is why it was done so? I’d love to be enlightened.
I also felt as though the film was a bit heavy handed in its story delivery. Hooper spared no expense at making sure every quip was understood, and every emotion was expressed. Because of this, it meant overstating the obvious. Three scenes stick out to me vividly in the film as an example. One is the joke where Firth is watching in awe as the news reel is playing and Hitler is commandingly speaking to his people. It can be assumed that Firth doesn’t know what is being said, but is at least acknowledging that Hitler is a gifted orator. To drive the point home, Hooper tosses in the Firth quip, “I don’t know what he’s saying, but I know he’s saying it well!!” Secondly the scene where he is stuttering through the penguin story to his kids comes to mind. Hooper makes sure to have Firth look as though he is about to break into tears after stuttering during a kids bedtime tale. This is a person who stuttered his whole life. I just don’t buy that he is breaking into tears over a few word stumbles in a kid story that his children didn’t even notice. The last was the “twist” where the King begins to doubt Geoffrey Rush’s character’s medical background. This scene is so quickly resolved and handled so poorly that it is brushed aside in a moments notice. Other than to generate a bit of a momentary “M. Night Shymalammadingdong style twist” it really does nothing to advance the plot. Scenes like these felt like heavy handed, over tellings of details of a story that aren’t advancing the plot. I know that I am being picky, but I EXPECT this out of many jobber directors, indie directors and student films; But we have to realize we gave this film an Academy Award for Directing, screenplay, and Best Motion Picture.
I admit, I’ve been a bit down on The King’s Speech. There is a lot of good going on here. First things first. Helena Bonham Carter was in a film where she wasn’t a creepy weirdo AND it wasn’t directed by her husband, Tim Burton. I almost didn’t even realize it was her- almost. Geoffrey Rush as I noted before gives a standout performance and truly is one of the best I have seen in a while. I fell in love with his character right from the get go. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been that engaged in the tale. His no-nonsense, no B.S. approach to royalty made me laugh. I loved the way he treated them like equals in the film. Rush brought the character to life. Lastly, for a film that can be summed up in one line as, “A King with a stammer seeks the counsel of a vocal coach with strange methodology”, I found the film to be a lot of fun. The dry subject matter translates well into a fun, slow burn film that teaches a great history lesson about the royal family. Best Picture of the year, I don’t quite agree, but I did enjoy it. Check it out. I think you will too.