Monday, January 17, 2011

Nitpickery -- The King's Speech

Hey y'all.  I just saw The King's Speech last night, and people have been giving it good reviews so far.  It doesn't really deserve them.  I mean, it doesn't suck, it's just not something I can really get into.

Okay, so this movie is about King George the sixth, who had a devastating speech impediment but had to have it fixed because his father was getting old and his elder brother had questionable practices in love, making him less prepared for the throne.  In comes speech therapist Lionel Logue, the "unorthodox" guy that will help Bertie (that's George's nickname) talk right again.  I bet you ten bucks that you could write the ending of this movie.

Now, I'm not one of those people that's like "oh, this is a history movie so it's automatically boring". I love history.  Thing is, this just feels so much like a simplified, over-emo dramatization of history. It'd be one thing if they went more "Braveheart" with it, i.e. the non-reality that Hollywood adds makes it interesting, but here it's not really dramatic at all.  It illustrates a very bland Hollywood stereotype, i.e. the non-reality Hollywood adds makes it boring. 

King's Speech felt a lot like the movie Invincible (and I'm sure other movies of the type), because it is a story of personal achievement.  The thing that made Invincible a bad movie of this kind was that it was bland.  Nobody really felt that interesting or did anything besides emphasize the themes they were trying to get across.

Right off I'll go ahead and say that The King's Speech is better than Invincible.  The people are more lively and say more interesting things.  And they aren't mumbling all the time either.  Yet, all the same, they're not doing anything out of place.  They're doing exactly what you expect their stereotype to do.  You've got the uneasy, emo, and mistrusting protagonist, the "unorthodox" guy that helps him, the supportive wife, the wussy Christian dude, and so on.  It has all the liberal stereotypes that you would expect in a Hollywood production these days.  Ho-hum.

Let me not talk all trash about this movie.  The guy that played George was very skilled, and early on he tells a story to his girls that's absolutely funny and ends up being sort of symbolic of the end of the film.

Who I really enjoyed was Helena Bonham Carter.  I was sort of dreading seeing this movie, but my boyfriend wanted to see it.  Seeing Carter's name on the poster made me much happier, because I trust her as an actress.  Y'know, there are those actors who you see that make you want to not watch a movie, and there are those that make you want to.  Helena Bonham Carter did not disappoint.  She was the real gem of this movie, and I enjoyed seeing her go on as a duchess and then Queen of England.  In many ways her character was also a stereotype, but she was basically the only actor that made me suspend my disbelief and enjoy the story as it was told (yes, that applies to historical movies too).

Also, I really like how this movie explains the elder brother David's affairs and how this moral failure really messed him up for the throne.  Maybe they didn't do this intentionally, but it still shows.  I sort of wish they had made it less obvious that Bertie was going to take the throne at the beginning of the movie (like how 127 Hours did with avoiding the ending we all know happened to the protagonist), but otherwise David was handled a lot better than I expected.

Another problem with the movie is that they really should have shown more of his love interest.  I think her name was Wallace Simpson. They have people talking about how bad she is, but we really only get to see her for like, fifteen seconds of direct screentime.  They skillfully portray her as controlling of David, but other than that it's mostly people bashing her.

This flaw is a telling one of the movie: tell and not show.  In many places they just talk instead of really showing how bad or otherwise intense things are.  Some of those places are: Simpson's history, the resignation of the prime minister (what caused him to do that?  Was he really that bad a PM?), the rise of Hitler, what happened to George as a child, George's researching of Logue's background, and so on.  You don't have to go on and on about these in a movie, but this movie is far too contained for being about a king of a politically important country.

You need to show a little more to give the audience a sense that this king has huge influence over the world as it is, or that he's at least concerned about it.  It's fine to show someone overcoming a problem, but come on, this is the friggin' King o' England.  The world is bigger than Downing Street. How about showing the internationality of this character?  If we were dealing with a private person it would be one thing, but George's influence makes it completely another.  Come on, show more newsreels, show David reacting to Hitler and feeling inadequate, show the Brits trying to keep their lives together, show something that makes this movie dang unique!  I'll give them credit for comparing George's and Hitler's oratory skills, but the movie needed far more of that type of thing.

Maybe this next problem is a personal one, but I felt it was dreary seeing how self-absorbed George was portrayed.  In my head I compared this movie to The Stone of Destiny, a movie that came out some years ago about Scottish college students who retook the Stone of Scone from the British as a symbol of Scotland's independence from the British throne.  While this movie wasn't big in the box office, it was very comparable to The King's Speech in certain ways.  It was a historical drama that stayed fairly close to reality.

The Stone of Destiny succeeds where The King's Speech fails in creating an inspiring movie.  First of all, it's just plain awesome to steal back an unrightfully held historic item, far more interesting than just a guy dealing with a problem (though the second would have been more interesting if they had remembered to show that this was indeed the King of England who had to deal with Hitler).  Secondly in TSD, you get to see brash college kids going into Westminister Abbey, and you're on the edge of your seat with every obstacle and setback these kids go through trying not to get caught.  It's even funny.  As opposed to TKS, where you get to see a guy curse and do tongue twisters.  Huh.

Thirdly, TSD was respectful of honor, and believed in idealism and being bold for your country.  TKS was rude to Christians where it could get away with it, disrespectful to the office of the king, and just generally attacking decency.

And lastly, The King's Speech was very self-absorbed.  I know at the end that you're supposed to feel all "warm and gooey" because George was overcoming his impediment, but they forgot to include the sense of what was going on at the time.  England was getting into a dang war, one that would see a lot of death and risk the liberty of their country, but at the end the movie doesn't even attempt to show any of this.  This wasn't just a dramatic moment for George, but a dramatic moment for the entire country.  Unfortunately, the themes of this movie were self-focused, like George was doing it for himself and not for love of country or family, or even hate of Hitler.  That would be interesting.  No man is an island, least of all the king, and certainly not at a time like that.

Now, The Stone of Destiny was not a perfect movie, but I enjoy it because the kids aren't in it for themselves.  I mean sure, they do have personal reasons for going, but in the end they are doing it for Scotland.  They love their country and their people, and in this movie you feel the Scots rising up in joy as they find out that the Stone of Scone has indeed disappeared.  You feel the passion of the Scots.  When you can't feel a thing for British people in TKS, you know the movie has serious disconnect.  It doesn't even take a lot of time to show the feeling of a nation.  The Stone of Destiny showed only a few scenes portraying how the Scots felt before and after the Stone was taken, but you could totally feel that along with them.  The heart was there, not just selfishiness.

And that's the real sad part here.  A movie about stealing a stone is far more interesting and uplifting than a story about the king that had to learn to inspire his country and stay strong in the face of Hitler's regime.   Sure, we all know that the latter is more important, but when the movie fails to portray this then that movie has lost the spirit of the true story.  Come on, people.

Okay, so let's sum this up.

The King's Speech
Score: Four out of Ten
Best Actor: Helena Bonham Carter
Summary: At times funny, but far too contained and self-focused.
People who will enjoy this:
- Casual moviegoers
- People who like history
- People inspired by personal struggle
- People judgemental of Conservatives

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