Monday, 10 January 2011
The King's Speech
This is an understated but engaging film in which a lot of exceptionally talented people do very little for the entire run time, and you don't mind. Rush is fabulous, Firth's at his best, and Bonham Carter manages to remind us all how talented (and beautiful) she is when not being forced into ludicrous shapes by her husband.
Only Timothy Spall struck a bit of a bum note with his portrayal of Churchill. Having said that, though, I'm struggling to think of a particularly good portrayal of the man. Is he just inimitable? Or has his imitations become their own entity. In other words, how many actors play Churchill, and how many of them play the best impression of Churchill they've previously seen?
I was also amused by the fact that (according to my sources) the film played a German composition during the titular speech (though presumably the film's name has two meanings, which I like) in which "Bertie" justifies the war. Furthermore, I'm not sure about how well the overall theme of understanding across the class divide - and the idea that the divide itself is easily negotiated - fit in with the finale's idea that King George VI needed to give a good speech otherwise all the commoners would flee in panic and Hitler would be shopping in Harrods by tea time the next day.
That's a minor niggle, though. Overall the film plays around very smartly with the ideas of duty and deference. In particular, it pulls off the fairly difficult juggling act of making us understand and relate to Edward VIII's need for freedom, without side-stepping the issue that considering the situation, his abdication was a monumentally selfish move (Guy Pearce does very well at eliciting both audience sympathy and frustration). On the one hand, it's true that wealth and power don't guarantee either happiness or freedom. On the other, he's had one of the most opulent, privileged lifestyles in the entire world for forty-one years under an implicit understanding that he reneges upon the instant it becomes inconvenient.
Anyway. Little to see, a great deal to think about. Makes for a nice change.