Date Night Turned Thinking Night
Is The King's Speech truly worthy of all its Golden Globes royalty?
Just about every Saturday night, my lovely girlfriend Marie and I head down to the local cineplex to check out a flick. I usually come out of it with opinions galore and indigestion from the vat of popcorn that I inhale; Marie usually comes out of it wishing I’d keep my opinions to myself.
So I thought instead that I’d share my two cents about the entire viewing experience with CultureMap readers. On this Golden Globes' night, let's look at The King's Speech, which is up for more Globes (seven, including best drama) than any other movie. My night with the King:
AMBIENCE: I really didn’t need the large tub-o-popcorn just 20 minutes following a meal with The Better Half and her Mom, but it’s the movies, you know? It turns out that I ended up with two helpings of popcorn: The one I ordered and the one that was spilled on me by the lady who sat down next to me.
And she didn’t even ask me if I preferred my lap with butter.
THE PREVIEWS: So Natalie Portman, you’re coming off what’s likely to be an Oscar-nominated role in Black Swan. How do you follow it up?
In No Strings Attached, by essentially remaking the old Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine try to come up with rules for sleeping together while staying friends. Only you’ve chosen as your co-star that bastion of comedic genius, Ashton Kutcher. Pass.
Meanwhile, The Beaverstars Mel Gibson as a man so psychologically distraught that he bonds with a rodent puppet. Surprisingly, it’s not a documentary.
THE FEATURE: In the fact-based The King’s Speech, an heir (Colin Firth) to the throne of England suddenly becomes King George VI when his newly-crowned brother abdicates on the brink of World War II. The problem is that the new King has had a pronounced stutter since boyhood, so he calls on an unorthodox therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to help him out with all those rousing wartime speeches.
- It’s good to see several British actors get a chance to stretch their acting muscles for American audiences. Their opportunities these days are usually limited to the villain role in some bad action movie, Masterpiece Theatre or a job as a staff member at Hogwarts.
- Not only does this movie work as a character study, it’s a nice little historical primer as well. There’s one moment when the King watches footage of Hitler, and when that footage fills the screen, it’s a chilling reminder about the folly of mistaking charisma for character.
- I cannot believe that this flick got saddled with an R rating. It’s basically because of one scene when the therapist urges Firth to spew profanities as a way to get past his impediment. How silly to think that such a worthy and harmless picture is equated, in the eyes of the MPAA, with the Saw franchise.
- Although the movie could have sunk into Oscar-pedigreed stupor, the two lead actors never let that happen. Firth makes it clear that it’s not just his stammer that his character is trying to overcome; it’s the universal fear of failing to fulfill expectations. And Rush wisely underplays what could have been a hambone role.
FINAL VERDICT: It could have been stodgy and lifeless, but The King’s Speech is deserving of the accolades it’s getting. The tale is almost too well-told, but luckily Firth and Rush provide the edge that brings this history lesson to vivid life.
THE BETTER HALF SAYS: In a rare case of agreement, she loved it (although I have a sneaking suspicion that she might have a thing for Colin Firth, hence her insistence on watching the Bridget Jones movies ad nauseam). Oh, and Marie’s mom (or, in keeping with the royal theme, The Better Half Mum) enjoyed it immensely as well, even as she continuously mistook Rush for James Woods.