About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The King's Speech

The King's Speech is certainly one of the leading contenders in the Oscar sweepstakes, and it's a very very good movie. At the same time, it should be recognized for being what it is, which is essentially a kind of high brow sports movie. Rocky for the literati. Underdog with trainer struggling against the odds with help of a trainer to get ready for the big bout. In this case the underdog is named Bertie, which is the family's name for Prince Albert, the Duke of York, the stammerer who is going to become King George VI when his brother Edward abdicates on the eve of WWII, and who can't by any means deliver a rousing speech without sounding like me when I was a teenager in front of a crowd, not unless an uncredentialled Aussie emigre speech therapist named Lionel Logue can cure him. 

To be elevated, a movie like this needs good acting, which we have here in spades. Colin Firth shows remarkable range from last year's deserved Oscar nomination for A Single Man. Very solid, very royal, very contained, whenever in public his humiliation and anger and fear show only in the lines of his face. His wife is played by Helena Bonham Carter, who can too easily feel prey to Merchant Ivory syndrome and get as strait-laced as her corsets when playing in costume. Not here. She has life, energy, bounce, was fun to watch which isn't what I expect from her. Geoffrey Rush is having fun playing Logue as well. He gives a quiet strength to his performance that's necessary for him to go head to toe with Prince Albert, but not hiding his own insecurities over his roots. The two make a great match in their performances, the film is sometimes as much buddy movie as sports drama, and wouldn't work near as well as it does without central performances as yin and yang as Firth and Rush provide here.  Very good scene when the two let lose and have at it in a park.  Guy Pearce is showing the same range as Firth, compare him here to his role in Animal Kingdom earlier in the year (do rent this; Jacki Weaver gives the motherly performance here that Melissa Leo doesn't approach in The Fighter, one of many virtues to this fine film) but too ofte acts like he stole Helena Bonham Carter's stuffiness. Michael Gambon, the Dumbledore of the later Harry Potter movies, is pleasantly on hand, Timothy Spall of Damned United, Harry Potter and much more is a less pleasant negative revelation doing a grotesquerie of Churchill. If there are some ups and downs in the cast, there are none where it counts, the leads are excellence, defined and in abundance. 

All the other princely virtues as well. Alexandre Desplat has his second fine score of the season, after Deathly Hallow. The stammering is handled delicately, enough to give a fully sufficient flavor of it, not enough to make anyone squirm. 

And underneath it all, a script with all the right beats, the ups and downs and the struggles and the doubters.  

I prefer The Social Network, but if King's Speech conquers all at least the Oscar goes to a movie with all the classic Oscar ingredients, well blended, not too stodgy, and certainly recommendable. 

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