The King's Speech - 9th February 2011

The King's Speech, or The Stuttering Firth as it shall now be known from here on in, was one of those films that I had wanted to see for a while and actually I wished we'd gone back when it first came out, before I read all the hype about it, because I feel that, whilst it was a good film, it didn't live up to it's pre-award show and pre-Oscar buzz.
The things that were great about it, first and foremost, were the central performances. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, when on screen together were both spectacular and I think that was one of the areas where the film, for me, didn't live up to it's trailer or the press, there simply wasn't enough of Rush and Firth. They really make this average British costume film swing and soar in all the right ways and I came out wishing the film had been twice as long and simply just stuffed from start to finish with the Firth/Rush pairing. Helena Bonham Carter is not bad either but she doesn't really have much of a part to play with. What part she does have, however, she plays perfectly well and also, there was a fairly decent attempt made to make her look quite similar to the Queen Mum. Next and probably last on the list of central pleasing performances was Guy Pierce who I didn't think was too shabby in the part of the infamous King Edward, you know, considering he's Guy Pierce.
Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi get fairly thankless roles (although if a film has stuttering in it Jacobi has it in his contract that he has to be there) and I didn't understand why they couldn't have found Gambon a realistic beard, probably because they'd spent half the budget on fattening up an already ludicrously jowly Timothy Spall in what is one of the most hilariously misjudged Churchill impersonations ever committed to screen.
Still these really are tiny nitpicks in a grander, better film with strong watchable leads.

As well as Firth and Rush the film is worth seeing for its sumptuous cinematography and well judged recreations of pre-World War II London although, apparently, before World War II, London was draped continually in a thick grey cliche fog, which, I am sure, was actually a cheap way to allow the film makers to cover up anything that wasn't 'of the period'. The direction isn't bad and the framing of the scenes is very often purposefully artistic and almost like a painting, especially in the scenes in Logue's sumptuous office; however, in an attempt to make every shot a winner, the director occasionally messes with the eye lines of the characters and the sides of the screen on which they sit, which is annoying for the viewer and can sadly drag you out of the action.

The last thing I really loved about the film, and this is probably a personal thing as I am an ex-pat Brit living in The States, although I am not particularly a royalist and am fully aware the film is, at least in part, a work of fiction, seeing Britain back then during that dangerous and nervous time but also with it portrayed as brave, unapologetically proud, filled with proper English gentlemen all with a sense of duty and honour did make the old stiff upper lip quiver a little with the odd bout of patriotism.
You see there is an England, or I guess a Britain in my head, that lives in a place outside time, that probably never  really existed but is instantly recognisable and appealing. It's Britain as a decent, polite, benevolent rather than an aggressive empirical nation full of green hills, country pubs, rousing music, culture and honest salt of the earth workers. Far from the sad image of council estates filled with underaged smoking single mothers watching pop idol and reality TV in a privatised, mismanaged and feeble country that leans too heavily on it's American cousins. Instead it's the fantasy of the Britain of Shakespeare, Dickens, Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling all set against the music of The Kinks and The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, with a few belted out verses of Jerusalem thrown in for good measure.
A list like this would, ultimately, be too long to go into here and I guess I find it a bit hard to find any real value in what goes on today, who knows maybe time will be kinder but A Stuttering Firth really brought all those rose tinted ideals and possibilities out in me again along with a deep rooted patriotism that I think all Brits should carry with them and which is far more important than simply football.

Back to the film and on the downside I would say that the film struggled with whether it was a historical retelling of a fairly forgotten story during a very well known period or an embellished and some what made-up work of semi-fiction about two men, one who happened to be an ex-actor speech therapist and the other the King of England. I only say this because I felt that they didn't focus on the two men enough for it to be the latter but missed out way too many important bits of information, especially for those not in the know about who everyone was meant to be, for it to be the former and so, for me, what ended up happening was, whilst I appreciated the back drop and context that the story of Bertie and Logue was being set in, every time they weren't on screen together I felt a lot of the scenes became superfluous. It was almost like the script didn't have the confidence in itself to just be a smartly written comedy-drama double header and so tried to cram in snap shorts of historical information that really, while sort of relevant, with all that was going on at that time, could've filled three movies, or a mini-series.

I am also amazed it's played as well as it has done in America because while something like The Queen did a great job of explaining the pomp and tradition of royalty, I felt there were big gaps where, if you weren't knowledgable about the era or the nature of a monarchy, you'd possibly get quite lost.

So, all in all, it was a fairly well written, ok directed, tremendously performed film with beautiful cinematography that completely deserves the acting awards it has won and been nominated for but I am not sure it should get much else. It's always nice to see an essentially British film doing well though.

7 out of 10 swan casseroles
Points from the Wife 8 out of 10

Just Go With It - 14th February 2011

Hot Fuzz - 7th February 2011