Sunday, January 19, 2014

The King's Speech

"T-t-t-testing... t-t-t-testing... w-w-w --- oh bollocks.!"

Nominees:  127 hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids are Alright, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter's Bone

He Said: IIII, wwoood, sssayy, gggood

This is a movie that I was actually really interested in seeing when it came out in theatres and then especially after it won for a bunch of Oscars. But we decided not to see the best pictures until it came on the list, so I am glad that it has finally popped up on the randomizer.

I think most everyone knows the basic plot of this one, but here is a short summary. King George V had two sons; one was in line for the throne even though he was a bit rambunctious and a bit of a party boy, the other son was a better fit for the throne, except for his inability to speak and extreme difficulty with delivering a public speech due to his very severe stutter. So the King as we all know goes crazy (as most King Georges seemed to do in history) and then died leaving the throne to Edward. But he was more interested in following his heart and marrying a divorcee than carrying on with his royal duties. So he left and ran off with his love thus leaving his younger brother the throne. He took on the name King George VI and he struggles and struggles through his life with his stutter, but eventually is able to conquer it, at least partly. The movie focuses on King George VI (Bertie as he is known by his close friends and family), not as the king but rather when he was the Duke of York and during his brother's short time on the throne.

The movie picks up with Bertie giving a speech for his father at Wembley stadium in 1925, but he is almost completely incapable of delivering the speech due to his extreme stutter, he seems almost paralyzed during the speech. At this point his wife searches out some speech therapists to help him out and that is how we meet Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist (of sorts) from Australia. Over time he gains the trust of Bertie and we learn some more little inside information about his life as he describes it to the therapist in an attempt at unlocking the reason and ultimate cause of his stutter. One interesting method he uses is to make Bertie read a Shakespeare passage aloud with headphones on which are playing music and under these circumstances he can read out loud with no stutter at all. Now I don't know if this actually happened or not, but if it did, why didn't they just do this every time he had to give a speech over the radio. Seems like a very simple method and no one would be any the wiser.

The film is quite well done, and the acting is very good throughout. Helena Bonham Carter is very good as Bertie's wife, she is strong willed and yet very supportive of her husband and sympathetic of his issues. It is certainly nice to see Helena Bonham Carter sans Johnny Depp and in a role that isn't crazy or creepy. She was certainly a solid one in this film. Likewise for Rush as the therapist, an all round good performance. And of course Colin Firth, who won a best actor Oscar, did a marvelous job with the role and even had the accent and stutter of George VI almost perfectly. At first while I was watching the movie I didn't think the accent was very real or believable, but then I listened to some of the King's real speeches and it is remarkable how the accent, stutter, and even sound of his voice is very similar to what Colin Firth was able to do; he must have had some very good voice trainers helping him with that especially with being able to make the stutter so real, it is definitely something that is hard to fake.

Something that I found both interesting and sad was to see how royalty really can't be who they want to be, but they must stand up to the rigorous standards that royalty have and live up to not only our expectations but also what we want. Admittedly this was pre-WWII when the British royalty had more sway in things and actually had some important functions, as opposed to now where they are just figureheads without much actual decision making or even any real diplomatic powers. That was the root of the movie, that George couldn't be who he was, he had to portray himself as kingly, and kings shouldn't stutter. This was also seen with his brother Edward, who couldn't marry whoever he pleased, it was more of an issue of marrying the right person so that everything appeared to be on the up and up.

The only problem that I had with the movie was that it was a bit of a bore. I wasn't that into it, even though the acting was good, the characters were real, it just fell flat to me. There were numerous times when George was stuttering through a speech and I just felt like grabbing the paper out of his hands and reading it myself, and I am sure this was felt by people around him in real life. The other nominees that year were 127 hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids are Alright, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter's Bone. I have only seen a couple of these (127 hours and Inception) and I can say I much preferred The King's Speech over them. Although I am still interested in seeing Black Swan and The Fighter, I doubt either of those would be any better. Perhaps it was a soft year for movies. I think I can say that there wasn't any movie that I enjoyed more that year, although I did notice that Let Me In was released that year and even though I haven't seen that one I have seen the Swedish original, Let the Right One In, and that was definitely better than the King's Speech. All that being said I guess I have to agree with the Academy on this one.

As a final note on youtube someone cut together the original King George VI pre-WWII speech with the speech performed by Colin Firth. Remarkable how similar the accents are, but also astounding how much longer the pauses were by the real king. I guess his stutter was improved but not by as much as the movie would let on, and I am sure they didn't want him taking that long of pauses in the movie, otherwise it would be a real bore just watching him struggle to say anything.

Next up, another new one that I was interested in seeing but held off until it reached the random list: Argo.

She Said: Jolly good.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was one I had been looking forward to seeing since it came out, and was gladly not disappointed. I actually sat through the whole thing in one go, which for a movie at home, is pretty amazing. I have no problem watching a whole movie in the theatres, but for some reason, an hour tops seems to be about all I can handle with most movies at home, even if I like them. That's one of the many reasons we're slow at this- it can take a week to watch a movie cause I won't commit my whole night to it.

But back to the movie. Much like "Ordinary People", this movie is quiet, though given the protagonist is the King of England, the characters in it certainly aren't ordinary. This movie focuses on them as people though, rather than on their roles in the larger narrative. This is probably why I liked it so much- I don't really care for historical stuff as a general rule, but I was really invested in these people. I especially like seeing Helena Bonham-Carter play someone other than "Helena Bonham-Carter" for a change. I thought she did a great job as the young Queen Mom. I haven't seen Colin Firth in that many things, but I've liked everything I've seen him in (especially "The Importance of Being Ernest"). He was equally as good in this one, and definitely deserved the Oscar for Best Actor.

Of the other nominees, I've only seen Inception, and while it was certainly more flashy than The Kings' Speech, the depth of acting in this one was greater, and thus I think the best picture won (at least between the two).

The Verdict: The Academy Was Right.