Monday, 10 January 2011

The King's Speech

Tipped for Oscar-a-plenty, is this Royal prequel to The Queen more than just an ITV Sunday drama?

For me, this film wasn’t even on my radar until I heard the States were going mad for it a couple of months back. What was this British film doing sneaking up on the world? Perhaps I hadn’t been paying attention? Even the director, The Damned United’s Tom Hooper is surprised that it’s taken off how it has. But what makes it so special? The answer is nothing really, and that’s the point. It’s a very safe, very mainstream, very appealable film. Films on the British monarchy always do well in the States, and therefore globally due to their interest in historical figures that they don’t have. I would probably hazard more Americans have set foot inside Buckingham Palace than British people – they just love our monarchy. It is a well-written, perfectly middle-class, middle-brow film that the average cinema-goer and the more upper class families who never really go to the cinema, can all go to and enjoy. But is it really any good?

Surprisingly yes. I’m a bit sick of this recent need to adapt our British monarchy but The King’s Speech dealt with a story I was completely unaware of and was more about the man than the monarch, which made it a lot more interesting. You can’t fault the acting either, Colin Firth, someone I’m not exactly a huge fan of, is extremely impressive as the King with the speech defect but that doesn’t mean he steals the show. In fact, Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mother is astoundingly convincing now that she’s stepped back a bit from her Burton charm and Geoffrey Rush as Australian Lionel is as compelling as ever.

The scenes, pace and dialogue are written exquisitely for a writer who has quite a rich TV background but nothing that will particularly ring any bells but the real stand-out achievement, and what will probably be overshadowed by the acting when it comes to the awards, is the directing. Hooper will use certain techniques you might not even realise – such as having the camera on a slight angle, his use of depth and frame, especially the King’s awkward static position on the left hand side of the screen with large spaces to his right and then, as his speech is reeled off, the framing is more dynamic, it moves and swirls around the words and becomes as animated as the speech. It’s these little touches, that will surely be overlooked that is what made the film for me. Had it been a simple point-and-shoot affair, I definitely would not have enjoyed this as much as I did. Instead, Hooper has shown a clear passion in his work and what with all the sets, costumes, props and incredible location work, you can see the results of a film where every detail was cared for and so should it be, it’s about the King after all.

This might be better than The Queen, but it still invites a certain audience that I hate – the old, middle class people. It’s quite strange how similar they are to annoying teenagers, they will laugh out loud, talk during the performance, eat loudly and their love of foul language onscreen (though said by Firth instead of a young ghetto kid is fine) is remarkable. It’s quite strange and worth a visit to the cinema to watch, maybe take your parents? They might be one of them? Obviously for people who think they are more intelligent than people younger than them they miss the subtleties the film has to offer and they will no doubt love the film. It’s catered completely for them, full of cheekiness, faux-intelligentsia content and got some famous faces in it. Perfect. It's quaint. However, as much as I enjoyed the film, there are more deserving films out there for people’s attentions. It didn’t affect me really and is instantly forgettable – but apparently not for some.

Rating: 7/10

Yes I enjoyed Tron Legacy more

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