I have been dreading this post. It is necessary, obviously, as I continue through the ten nominees for Best Picture, but I have been putting off posting about The King’s Speech since I saw it last week. It was the last of the ten that I watched, and from what I had heard from friends, commenters and critics, I expected pretty great things.
I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed.
Don’t crucify me–I’m not saying it was a bad movie or even a so-so one. I am saying, however, that it does not deserve to win Best Picture or even be in the top two or three contenders.
Everyone has said that Colin Firth is masterful in this role, and he was. There is no denying that. Faking a stammer like that and mustering real, manly tears at the thought of being king are two things Firth can do extremely well. I have no doubt that he will win Best Actor for this role, although I’m not entirely sure he deserves it. Pulling off that stammer is more than I can imagine doing myself, but I think it granted him the luxury of not having to convey subtlety. There’s nothing subtle about a stammer. It’s a great performance, I just don’t think it is so neck-and-shoulders above his fellow nominees that his win should be a guarantee right now (which it is).
Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were also nominated for their performances. Rush, I can understand. He makes this movie. He is not getting nearly enough credit for his role. Carter, what did she do? I mean, she does a fine job, but she’s not given much to work with and her role is not very compelling or difficult. I cringe when I think about the fact that Mila Kunis could have had her nomination.
So the acting is great–there is no question about it. The problem with The King’s Speech is the story. It is relatively story-less, all things considered. A man in line to be king has a stammer, and he has to fix it before he addresses the nation on the brink of war. That’s all there is to it. There’s no moral dilemma, no character flaws. This movie is as straightforward and boring as you’re ever going to get.
It’s especially frustrating because there are so many things they could have done with this story. Apparently, King George VI had to ask his wife to marry him three times before she said yes, but we don’t hear anything about that. The whole second World War thing was completely underplayed (they could have drawn out that air strike situation at the end, but the whole scene felt thrown in there). The scene in which Bertie talks about his semi-abusive nanny as a child is touching, but other than that he seems to have a pretty normal life. His stammer didn’t prevent him from marrying, having children, or otherwise being royal. So his father is hard on him–aren’t all fathers? He is without interest as a character, and his story is straightforward without gray area to navigate.
Rush’s character Louge, on the other hand, was much more compelling. You could see his struggle on how to treat Bertie, see his sadness over his acting career and the lack of respect he received from his sons. That story evoked so much more in me, yet it went almost totally unexplored.
The dialogue (apparently much of which was taken from Logue’s actual notes) was fantastic, and the acting, again, was a major selling point for this movie. But the script just made too many bad choices on which story to tell.
And just so you know, I watched The Social Network again this weekend to be sure, and it is definitely deserving of the win. Even if this historical piece unfairly pushes it out.