Saturday, May 14, 2011
The King's Speech is a very high-minded, serious, life-affirming movie, of the kind that the English film industry loves to make -- probably because the American public, and the public of many other countries, including their own, eats it up every time -- and it will be deeply familiar and utterly unsurprising to anyone who has seen more than a dozen movies in his life. (Let along being even vaguely familiar with WWII, or the recent history of the British monarchy.)
It's all very nice, full of plummy accents, understated posh surroundings, stiff upper lips, and predictable uplift. Movies like this have been winning piles of Oscar awards for eight or nine decades, and there's no sign that the Academy of 2035 will buck that trend, either. The King's Speech is a movie to make adults feel smart and superior and cultured without having to read subtitles, learn anything substantial, or actually consider any unpleasant things existing in the world, now or ever.
Colin Firth plays the younger brother of a bad father whom he nevertheless utterly loves, in the way that only tortured-in-public-school British aristocrats can love their families. (Which is to say: completely undemonstratively.) And he's going to be King as soon as that bad father dies and as soon as his equally-bad-in-other-ways older brother decides to abdicate in favor of marrying an American divorcee. Of course, Firth's Prince Bertie is both utterly devoted to his duty and scared to death of it, which makes him perfect for audience-identification purposes: speaking in public is the #1 fear, so a story about a really rich and powerful guy with that fear (and for a good reason!) is a guaranteed hit.
And so on and on; Geoffrey Rush is the obligatory oddball guru, whose unusual methods dependably deliver the results that the stuffed-shirt "establishment" types can't. And Helena Bonham Carter is given very little to do as the future Queen Mum, but she does it as stiff-upper-lippy as possible. In fact, the story of The King's Speech is so tailor-made for a big feel-good movie that one has to wonder why it wasn't made twenty or thirty years ago, probably by Merchant-Ivory. But it did eventually become the movie that was destined to exist, and now destiny won't rest until we all see it. It's a perfectly pleasant two hours of exposed celluloid, so you might as well get it over with, if you haven't already.