Alex: What is it with Helena Bonham-Carter? Why does she have to be so actor-y? She’s particularly tic-y and bird-like in this movie. She reminds me of one of these things. What are those things called?
The King’s Speech is almost unbearably respectable. It’s one of those tasteful period dramadeys the Weinstein bros. always whip out in time for Oscar season — complete with classically trained cast and whimsical piano score by Alexandre Desplat (he’s the Rachel Portman of our decade) — but which are rarely inspired. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush stay above the fray; their performances are genuinely heartfelt and relatively un-showy.
But there’s nothing in the movie you don’t fully expect to happen, and it’s all done without critique, or any brave choices, really. I was particularly annoyed by the underscoring — overscoring, actually — of the climactic speech with a booming Beethoven’s Seventh. It’s almost masking the inherent un-dramatic-ness of the movie’s climax.
And why would a movie that is, on one very murky level, about English identity resort to that particular work of baroque German-ism? Is there some irony here about the approaching menace of Hitler? No. Nobody behind this movie is thinking that deeply. They don’t need to; they’re all gonna win their Oscars.
Aaron: I basically agree with what you say about HBC, though I’ve liked her in a bunch of stuff over the years (Howards End, The Wings of the Dove, Fight Club). I feel like she’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus with a bad sense of humor. I also feel like she is unnecessarily goth and weirdly always in her role as Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. Mostly I don’t think of her very much, but I commend you on finding the kitsch toy that most looks like her. I wonder if you put water under her face if she will bob.
I also think “almost unbearably respectable” is a perfect way of summing up The King’s Speech. It’s really nothing much of a movie at all. It’s very, very straightforward and only interesting in about three scenes between Firth and Rush. I was mostly interested in the very organic approach to Freudian psychotherapy that Rush’s character (whose name I’ve already forgotten, because the characters were so fucking boring) comes up with. I would have liked more of a story about that.
Did he study or read Freud? What direction was he going in with all the therapy talk if he ended up (basically) succeeding just with the physical exercises?
The score was bad – it was much too contemporary and used way too much piano. I also hated how Hooper used short lenses and really wide angles to suggest and uncomfortable intimacy. I get what he was getting at, but it was overdone and not very original. (You get it?! Firth is uncomfortable with the therapy and with Rush, and you are uncomfortable with the wide angles! Vomit.)
Another deep thought that nobody in the movie was that at the end of the eponymous speech, we basically see a scene from The Emperors New Clothes. Everyone is applauding and cheering him (really because the speech was nationalistic and the proper amount of proud and angry), but we know that he really did a very OK job – not a masterful job. The juxtaposition with Hitler really shows that George is not a good speaker at all. Then there’s this weird thing where young Elizabeth says something to the effect of “You were bad at the beginning and then you warmed up” – like right our of the Hans Christian Andersen story… was this on purpose? I don’t think it was, but it seemed interesting.