Sunday, January 30, 2011

The King's Speech *½

Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Guy Pearce, Eve Best, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall
Jennifer Ehle, Claire Bloom, Derek Jacobi

It seems that for as long as there have been movies, that's how long their need to convince us they're just like us, has existed.
Why have most movies lost the need to revel in their own cinematic-ness? Why such a need to make us identify with them?
If you're looking for answers to those questions you might as well stay away from The King's Speech, a film so secure about its heart-tugging contrived maneuvers, that it dares to pretend it's a story about the every man when in fact it's a piece of ideological brainwash that reinforces the notion that the people watching it are precisely the exact opposite of what they're watching onscreen.
The film basically deals with King George VI's struggle with stuttering. We see him shame his father (Gambon), be bullied by his brother (Pearce), be nurtured by his wife (Carter) and eventually be cured by magical Australian Lionel Logue (Rush) before delivering the speech that, according to the movie, mattered more during WWII than the tons of lives lost afterwards.
The film is handsomely made but it's slightly offensive to think that more thought was put on the details in Helena Bonham Carter's hats, than in the way the film relishes in its somewhat fascist ideology.
With each new scene we see how more and more it's buying its own love for royalty and its seemingly "human" approach (awww it's tiny Queen Elizabeth!) is nothing more than a reaffirmation for the film's condescending look at the world that surrounds it.
As Hooper and company fail to find anything to question about the characters, these become puppets at the command of a modern fairy tale that pretends to exalt humanity when all it does is trivialize war in the face of royal adversity.
Sure, the king's achievement was notable and a triumph on its own, and sure, the fact that the people around him congratulate him on his success and seem to forget about the larger reality outside Buckingham Palace is quite normal, what's baffling is that the film fails to question these things.
It comes as no surprise that the film's best performance and its biggest asset comes in the shape of Eve Best as crown wrecker socialite Wallis Simpson; it's through her that we get the only glimpse of seeing what lied beyond the crown, beyond the obligations and especially beyond the facade.
If it wasn't for her we'd be stuck with a bunch of people who use their status as means to demean other- when Queen Elizabeth pokes fun at commoners who feel surprised to meet her, it's not really cute, it's disturbing- and as much as the film tries to make Lionel and the King achieve some sort of Becket like synergy, not such relationship is truly ever formed.
We are presented with a portrait of a group of gorgeously lit saints whose own personal troubles amounted to more drama than the Blitz and while some might get a kick out of watching the intimate lives of royals, their lives here are so restrained by public relations that this doesn't even serve as royalty porn, its purpose was never to allow us into their lives but to perpetuate the sort of ideology that can pass patronizing as back patting.
For a film that deals so much with communication, it's a shame that The King's Speech muffles the audience's voice so much.


Lucas Dantas said...

wow! you really hated it.

you wrote this before the SAGs right?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I don't get that obviously "heartwarming" feeling from it - and I like it. I know many who like it claim that that's its ace-in-the-hole or whatever, but I think the characters really are flawed. Especially the Queen Mother who's obviously not at ease with the colonial family (which is why I love the register HBC plays her in, but hate that they didn't really examine her role more).

It's a shame you hate it, I'm still hoping it wins everything at the Oscars - even though it's not my favourite of the lot. I'm awful, like that.

Castor said...

I haven't seen it but I love it that Jose is telling it like it is!

Jose said...

Lucas: yup.

Andrew: don't care if it wins or loses anything. It'll still be a terrible film in my book.

Castor: haha thanks!

Lucas Dantas said...

ha! i'll post your last night tweets here then. i love your angst. lol

Burning Reels said...

Firth and Rush were very watchable together (and I'm generally not a fan of either) but it'd be such a uninspiring Oscar winner - even the technical aspects were greyer than grey.

The Social Network isn't perfect but it makes such a valid attempt at capturing current mainstream society and would be an ideal stamp in early 21st century Oscar history.

Also, I see Dogtooth love Jose - high five!