I’m not sure that I’ve ever reviewed a movie which would be considered “serious” within this blog. I may have done it somewhere else along the lines, but I think I’ve been catering mostly to the geek crowd (myself included) with the films on which I clue you in. All you have to do is look at the state of this place. If I displayed the tag cloud on the sidebar, Batman would probably show up the largest. I think the only movie I’ve ever reviewed on here that’s been nominated for an Oscar was Inglorious Basterds and, even then, Tarantino gets a pass.
Needless to say, The King’s Speech isn’t typically the type of film reviewed by yours truly, but I’ll try to nerd it up as best I can to keep the philistines from falling asleep.
Whenever Geoffrey Rush’s name appears on a bill, I find myself interested.
Though it helps that he played my favorite character in the Pirates franchise, he is, Barbossa aside, an amazing actor. Ever see The Life and Death of Peter Sellers? Quills? You totally should. If you thought you kinda liked Geoffrey Rush, those movies will make you love him. He’s on a short list of actors whose movies I will always put at the top of my list to see (along with Bill Nighy and Christoph Waltz).
He just earned a (well deserved) Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech, playing a speech pathologist tasked with correcting the stammer of “Berty”, the future King George VI.
The story itself, at it’s base level, isn’t all that unfamiliar to movie-goers and geeks alike; unconventional teacher meets reluctant/resistant student. At first, there is much friction between the two. The student wants to learn, but is not content with the unconventional means of the teacher. They start making breakthroughs and growing closer but, eventually, a disagreement divides them. Since they’re from different worlds, they simply go back to what they were doing before they met, but it all seems hollow because they’ve become so close. One apologizes and the teacher continues with his task. In the end, the student accomplishes a pinnacle to which he was aspiring. This exact story won Daniel LaRusso a big ass trophy and won Matt Damon and Ben Afffleck an Oscar. How ‘bout them apples?
The future monarch and student in this story is portrayed by Best Actor Nominee Colin Firth (who has a recognizable face, but unfortunately, no geek cred to his name unless you could Love, Actually, but that’s more of a movie-lovers-movie than the typical geek fest), who does an incredible job at making a Royal, typically someone who is above the common man in every way, a very sad and ultimately pitiable character. You can feel his pain with every stammered syllable and can carve the tension like a turkey when he’s standing before a microphone (in the infancy of radio) literally choking up half words and leaving minutes of horrible dead air. I felt his fear.
The cast is bolstered by the inclusion of Best Supporting Actress Nominee Helena Bonham-Carter (that’s Bellatrix LeStrange, the Queen of Hearts, the Corpse Bride, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeny Todd, and Marla from Fight Club, for all you nerds. Jesus, see a Burton movie, she’s in like every one within the last ten years…) as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (eventual Queen Mum) who shows a sort of affection for her husband not usually seen between members of the Royal Family, at least not in public. She stands behind him as a strong woman trying to help her husband cope with the rigors of his public office while dealing with his malady.
The movie offers us what appears as a peek behind the curtain of the Princely (then Kingly) lifestyle, showing that a Royal, even with all the pomp, circumstance, breeding, and training, is still, at his core, a family man trying to do right by his Father. Though, as Berty describes it in one scene, “This isn’t a family, it’s a firm.”
We get to see the anxiety, the love, and the emotion inside the head which will inexorably be burdened by the crown of the outgoing British Empire.
Also in what is a key role but essentially a cameo, Michael Gambon (Yep. Dumbledore.) appears as the slowly departing King George V. He portrays the monarch regally in public but a taskmaster and King-maker when it comes to his relationships with his children.
The second awesome cameo comes about halfway through the movie. A silhouette, obviously that of Winston Churchill, appears at a party. We see his back as he discusses something by a window with the future Queen Mum. I thought, briefly, that they may leave Churchill as a background character since the focus was mainly on George VI. Maybe not even show Churchill’s face or mention his name, just leave the viewer to assume Churchill.
As the conversation went on, one could tell that the voice was practiced. The Churchill impression was fairly well done. Then, they swing the camera around and show you that, just like Prisoner of Azkaban, it was Wormtail the whole time! That’s right, Peter Pettigrew, known in real life as Timothy Spall, gets to take a swing at playing Sir Winston as he was in the months leading up to the start of World War II. I chuckled when I heard Michael Gambon’s voice, but I think I busted a great big “HA!” when I realized it was Timothy Spall.
Also, Guy Pierce (formerly of banging Madonna, Memento, and LA Confidential. Ok, not much geek there, but he was banging Madonna when she was less held together by botox, string, and the will of Satan) plays flightly older brother and first King after George V’s departure, Edward VIII. He provides the perfect opposite to Firth’s George VI, showing the egotistical and vapid side of Royalty to the contrast of Berty’s dedication to public service.
All cameos and clichés aside, there is certainly a reason this movie received the most (12!) Oscar nods. I’m willing to go as far as saying this might be the best movie I’ve seen personally this year. I believe this should be the front runner for any acting awards, best picture, and best screenplay easily. Last year, I called Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting. This year, it’s Geoffrey Rush and, like last year, I will consider it highway-effing-robbery if he doesn’t get it.
A brief anti-nerd sentiment: It beats the hell out of me why a movie as shitty as Avatar is anywhere within the same league as this flick. Anyone who thinks Avatar was deserving of Best Picture should paint themselves blue, put on some 3-D glasses, coat themselves in honey, hop on a short-bus to the Amazon, and lay down on an ant hill. All the cat-people do it. It’s a right of passage. That means you should do it too.
Anyway, go see The King’s Speech. Barbossa, Dumbledore, Leonard Shelby, Wormtail, and Bellatrix are in it. Most of them get to put “Acadamy Award Nominated” in front of their name now, so their quotes go up. Be proud of your nerd heroes.
Awesome flick, and my highest rated review of the year so far.
Bidula’s Last Word – 10/10, and I don’t give that rating lightly.
Keep fighting the good fight.