I don’t often let my wife choose the movies we go see. I’m okay with her choosing rentals, and I’ll even let her manage the remote, but when we have to spend $40+ on a night out, I expect to be entertained with things blowing up, people fighting, or aliens. I prefer movies that have all three.
But when Erin suggested we go see The King’s Speech, I was willing to suspend my requirements. It won a pile of (supposedly) important awards, it features two of my favourite actors, and it just seems like one of those grown-up films that you are supposed to watch so that you don’t embarrass yourself at dinner parties and galas.
Plus our tickets were free. (Thank you, former students, for your generosity.)
And while I fully expected to like The King’s Speech, I didn’t expect it to be so fundamentally excellent from beginning to end.
First of all, it is entertaining and enjoyable. There are a lot of poorly written, badly acted, mediocre movies out there, and so many of the “critically acclaimed” movies are so godawful depressing and wrenching that you want to off yourself at the end. Yes, movies are a form of art, but they are also entertainment, and I want to be entertained, not mortified, bored, or mentally exhausted by them. The King’s Speech is not all smiles and sunshine, but it at least has a sense of humour.
Secondly, it is filmed in such a way that artistry reflects and strengthens the mood and message of the movie. You cringe and ache for Albert as he struggles through his public addresses, not just because of Colin Firth’s brilliant portrayal of the stammering Duke of York, but because the extreme close-ups leave you with nowhere else to look but straight into the man’s face. The anguish is unavoidable. So much of the movie is filmed tightly to the actors’ faces, and with a lesser cast, with men and women that couldn’t convey their emotions with such subtlety and grace, it would fail.
Finally, the movie neither denigrates nor deifies the monarchy in the story. It respects the role of the King as a living monument, a flesh-and-blood rallying point for the consciousness of a beleaguered nation, but it shows how painfully human, how flawed, how prickly and selfish such a symbol can be.
My wife picked right on this one.