brent johnson is left nearly speechless by The King’s Speech …
Sometimes, a film dazzles my brain — and emotions — on so many levels, it feels like cheating to reduce it to a pithy review.
That’s how I felt last year after seeing Up In The Air. The George Clooney movie-for-the-modern-era sunk into my bones so much that I simply wrote what I loved about the film in list form on this website.
And that’s how I felt this weekend after seeing The King’s Speech, director Tom Hooper’s film about early 20th century British monarch King George VI’s struggle to overcome a crippling stutter. I left the theater swimming in thoughts:
-How Colin Firth utterly kills in the title role, cursing, singing and exploring the frightened side of a confident man. I’ll be shocked if Firth, riding a mid-career surge that began with last year’s A Single Man, doesn’t snag the Best Actor award at this year’s Oscars.
-How Geoffrey Rush is a scene-stealing riot as the offbeat Australian speech therapist who helps the king. Funny as he is, Rush also has the most crushing scene: a sad, uncomfortable audition for the lead role in a local stage production of Shakespeare’s Richard III.
-How Helena Bonham Carter is a marvelously subtle hoot as the supportive, assured queen.
-How David Seidler’s script manages to be both clever and informative about a little-breached tale in history.
-How Hooper’s direction is original — the most quick-cut, quirky shots I’ve ever seen in a period piece — yet never overbearing.
But more than anything, I left the theater thinking about The Social Network.
I couldn’t imagine seeing a movie that trumped David Fincher’s searing Facebook saga as my favorite film of the year. The Social Network smacked my senses with darting dialogue, master-class acting and something priceless: a true story about my generation that made me ponder my life for days.
But about halfway into The King’s Speech, I wondered: Is this – an English history lesson about an event that happened a half-century before my lifetime — actually better?
It’s a battle that might also be brewing in the minds of Oscar voters. The two films are the front-runners for Best Picture — and it’s likely to be a close race. Right now, The Social Network is the favorite, wracking up critics prize after critics prize. But The King’s Speech is the kind of sturdy, classical drama that Oscar loves. See 1996, when The English Patient beat Fargo for the top award.
The two films are actually about similar ideas: how new forms of communication change our lives. The Social Network is about using it to gain fame, and as a result, transforming the way people talk. The King’s Speech is about using a new medium — radio — to reach people, even if it’s personally terrifying to do so.
In the end, The King’s Speech didn’t sock me as much on a personal level as The Social Network did. But I’m still enamored by how a film that seems like a tea-and-biscuit British historical drama is actually a touching, timeless and hilarious human-interest story.