Monday, January 24, 2011


The King’s Speech is a perfectly adequate piece of middlebrow Oscar bait stuffed to the gills with ridiculously talented actors. Colin Firth does a splendid job as George, the man who would be king, watching World War II loom darkly on the horizon while his older brother (Guy Pearce) prepares to abdicate the throne he only recently took from their freshly dead father (Michael Gambon). George is quite worried about the impending kingly status, since he is a seemingly incurable stutterer. With great love, and unceasing willingness to help her husband, his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks out yet another speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), wishfully, hopefully, prayerfully thinking that this one will be the one to bring an end to the stutter by unlocking the orator within. Tom Hooper, best known for his well-received, though unseen by me, HBO miniseries John Adams, directs with a light touch and framing that oftentimes leaves Firth in unexpected places within the frame. He’s a person who is uncomfortable and the filmmaking lets us feel that, augmenting framing with fisheye lenses and point-of-view shots that extend a stammering pause during a public speaking setting until it feels like it’s lasting forever. This is a film that is often suspiciously glossy history but is also a rather nicely done period-piece against-all-odds drama. The wonderful actors give weight to the human-interest plotline that writer David Seidler’s screenplay marches forward with a simple efficiency. I must say, though, that the more overwhelmingly positive comments I hear about the film, the more I feel alienated from the prevailing critical and public opinions, which tend to range from enthusiastic to over-the-top in their praise. I liked it just fine, thank you very much, but unfortunately that almost seems like damning with faint praise at this point. It’s a pleasant enough time at the cinema with charming performances and crisp writing, but I can’t say that anything about it ever really set my mild enjoyment ablaze with enough passion to rave. It’s a nice example of what it is, but it’s hardly more.

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