10 December 2012

Timing Isn't My Strong Suit

Please explain to me how The Kings Speech is more worthy of the Oscar for best original screenplay than Inception. Nolan conceived his labyrinthian, brain maze all by himself whereas the plot for The Kings Speech can be found in any old dusty history book. I personally found it in “A History of British Scroungers, Volume 2” but I hear it's also told in, “Useless toffers, Part 4'.

When The King's Speech won every single prize going I started to get a little annoyed. I know the Academy Awards is a sham but do they have to make it quite so fucking obvious? Due to its dealings with the British Monarchy, disability and a period setting, the film just smacked of Oscar winner. I had no doubt that it would be an okay film but come on, it's just about some bloke with a faulty tongue and a prized metal hat. Inception had zero gravity fights, cities folding in on themselves and was the best Bond movie set in a head.

“One shall have both. Thanks Peasants”.
It didn't help that I have my own prejudice towards our Monarchy too. Apparently the Royal Family only costs the British public about the price of a cup of coffee. Although the word 'only' there is quite understated. During this recession, coffee, like our head of states, seems to be massively overpriced. With their pure bloodlines, huge wealth, pretentious duties and current irrelevance, I personally would prefer the caffeine. If a devout Royalist wants them that badly then maybe they should cover my costs as well as their own. It seems fairer than involuntarily forcing me to fund this Windsor dictatorship. Until the Queen and all our snobby Lords earn their cash and charge horse-first into battle for me, the tasty beverage wins out. To be honest I don't even like coffee, it's not the drink I want but the choice.

“If it bleeds, we can kill it”
Despite all that however, I never really thought that I wouldn't be a fan of The Kings Speech. It's just that at the time of release, I was sick of fucking hearing about it. Considering I'm not a fan of its subject matter and it had been massively overhyped, what took me by surprise though was just quite how good it actually was. In all honesty, it was absolutely phenomenal. In fact I would say that this movie is definitely the most interesting thing that the Royal Family have been associated with since The Queen shot the tyres from Diana's car, smoked a cigar and uttered an Arnie style one-liner.

For those who fill their ears with tar and live in lonely isolation under a boulder of misery, the plot of the film is fairly simple to explain. Soon to be King Colin Firth has a bit of a stutter which winds him the hell up. Like a pianist's fingers or a priest's cock, King Firth needs his voice to do his job and so begins visiting the eccentric Aussie speech therapist Captain Barbossa. During this course, Firth is subjected to bizarre treatments such as Jackanory karaoke and voluntary tourettes, whilst at the same time the two men slowly build up a raging bromance of love and respect. In fact, it's the relationship between these two men that forms the heart of the film. As it turns out, the biggest hurdle in their relationship is of course the King's dislike of being treated like your boring, old average human.

One of my hesitations before jumping into this movie was in how it would treat the Royal family. I suppose in a way it was my presumption that it would glamourise them and try to show them in an annoyingly mythical light. One that might imply they did cool things such as fight dragons and cut peoples heads off as though we were back in the good old days. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when it instead appeared to be rather neutral in judging them. Simply, whatever preconceptions and baggage you bring to the film with you will be reinforced throughout its running time. Royalists will find all the things they love such as sparkly jewellery, elitism and incest whereas I just see a system of pointless and unproductive snobbery. It's kind of like the mirror in Harry Potter in which all that's reflected is what you want to see. Although if, like Harry I'd looked into that mirror, it wouldn't have been my parents looking back at me. I don't know what would be there exactly but I suspect it'd involve Hermione and I know I'd be jizzing and crying.

“You promise I'll get a close up?”
So by catering for any baggage that you might bring to the movie, it then leaves you to simply judge it on its own merits. Now believe it or not but I have a couple of friends and they charge a very reasonable rate to speak to me. One of these chums had already seen the film and told me that the camera framing was very noticeably odd which to me seemed a strange thing to notice. Surely unless it included bizarre shots in which peoples heads are tucked into the bottom corner of the screen it couldn't be that weird could it? Well interestingly that's exactly what it does. The framing is used to replicate the feelings of Firths frustrated King and so is often claustrophobic, dizzying and forcefully charged to the tax payer. Ignore that last one- I'm really trying hard contain it here.

Like the King himself, the frame is generally steady and composed until it comes to his and Barbossa's vocal karma sutra sessions. During these scenes things go a little mental with the camera swooping around and about like a wild fucking zubat. I don't know what else Tom Hooper had previously directed but he should be certainly congratulated for this. In the past, films that deal with a similar subject such as Mrs Brown or The Queen have been rather obviously made for TV. Nothing is more distracting to a film than regularly timed intervals that force the viewer to watch adverts for Benylin, house insurance and tampons. However never once here did I subconsciously prepare myself for the inevitable television break. Unlike its movie colleagues, The Kings Speech really is a huge and tasty slice of cinematic cake.

“A condom is the glass slipper for our generation”

The cast too was on top form although to be fair when have that group ever been anything less than brilliant? Surprisingly though, it was Bonham Carter that really stole the show for me. My original thought was that as good as she is here, this is a fairly standard role for her. This part I guess was a bit like a cross between her Queen in the soulless Narnia clone Alice in Wonderland and Mrs Bucket in the much superior remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Then I realised that as a human, she was once also Marla Singer. It's a fact that I'd always known but never really thought about. Suddenly it stuck out like a saw thumb as I realised that this kindly woman married to Firth was the same woman who muttered the classic, classy line, “I haven't been fucked like that since grade school”. I guess it's a good sign for anyone when you can perform slow-motion, bullet-time sex with Tyler Durden and that image doesn't fuse itself to your career.

If there was any weak link with this movie it would sadly be Timothy Spall. I don't even mean weak link out of the actors, either. I mean regarding everything in the whole fucking film. For some reason he decided to play the part of Churchill as though he'd dressed up as him and gotten pissed at a shit fancy dress party. Whereas everybody else was giving more, subtle, tactful performances Spall was instead trying to play Churchill as one of those puppets from Spitting Image. His cheeks had comically dropped as though playing their own rules against gravity and he stamped about like John Wayne having just sat on the knife dildo from Se7en. It was as though an angry Mr Toad had been painted human and was being forced to croak his way through his lines before he dried up and perished. Usually Spall is pretty good value so it's a shame to have a go at him but fuck it, he was pretty shit.

"Please tell me he didn't stutter"

People have been comparing this movie to Rocky, which is true to a degree as both are films about an underdog who can't talk properly. Firth can't because he has a stammer, Stallone can't because he's part Gorilla, part stroke victim. Whereas Rocky's cheerful finale is an insignificant boxing match, King Firths moment of hurray is when he successfully announces an impending second World War. Maybe the War did kill over 60 million people throughout the world but we did win and King Firth didn't stutter once. So explain to me how exactly it was all such a tragedy. As Firth announced on the radio that everybody was going to die, it cut to shots of the public looking miserable. What was their problem? They should be happy for their King as he didn't stammer, God damn it! Maybe they were about to get the shit bombed out of them or sent away to be shot at by Germans, but still! Did they not know how many Doctors he'd had to visit to speak like that? He was forced to put marbles in his mouth at one point! If we're being honest, did the holocaust ever really get as bad as that? I know I went in disliking the Monarchy but I'd never previously known quite how much they'd had to suffer. Foreign readers might be interested to know that as well as the Royal Family, we Brit's are also known for our unstoppable and hugely irritating sarcasm. It's an annoying characteristic but one we generally feel the urge to deploy with a rare but stubborn sense of national pride.

"I wish I knew how to quit you.”

By the time the credits began to roll, I was a huge fan of this movie. It had reinforced my disapproval of the system, expertly told a pretty good story and successfully risen above the tiresome marathon of hype. I still don't think it was a more original film than Inception but then nor do I particularly rate the taste of the Oscar voters. As Driving Miss Daisy's 1989 win proved, they know about as much about a good film as Steven Seagal does when drunk on beer and ego. This is a feel-good movie which managed to uplift me despite its smiley King conclusion. The joy of watching Firth bond with Barbossa is so entertaining and genuine that I can't wait for them to go on a Brokeback-esque camping trip in the sequel. Based on The Kings Speech I'm both optimistic and excited to see Tom Hoopers next directorial effort. He might have made the Royal family into a tolerable screen presence, but he's going to have to be good in order for me to enjoy Les Miserables. A disabled King is one thing but I'll be damned if I can cope with two hours of whinging French peasants. 

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