Monday, 21 February 2011

The King's Speech, Tom Hooper, UK/ Australia 2011

I'm not quite sure I'm prepared to also jump on the bandwagon and heap praise after praise on Hooper's film. It's not that The King's Speech is a bad film - no! - but it simply isn't as brilliant or as special as it's made out to be. In actual fact, The King's Speech pretty much follows all the conventions of the traditional narrative, with very little surprises, let alone innovations on a cinematic level which may have involved anything from lighting, sound, cinematography or a deviation of the, in my opinion, way too traditional and predictable, narrative. The screenplay of The King's Speech could be the screenplay of any old love story that comes out of Hollywood inasmuch as it generally starts with the girl rejecting the boy, followed by the two eventually coming together, but somewhere around the middle of the film the girl has second thoughts and dumps the boy only for both of them to finally commit to each other for good at long last during the film's climactic moments - usually in the final 20 minutes - at the expense of the bad guy . Now replace the girl with King George VI and the bad guy with the archbishop of Canterbury and there you have it: the screenplay of The King's Speech!

Next, throw in a decent dose of the Brits favourite topic - Nazi-Germany and WWII - and you've got the recipe for the most successful film ever to come out of the UK (that's referring to the box-office grosses, of course, - but what else counts nowadays ...?) Anyone could have thought of that, right? Well, fact is nobody has, until David Seidler, this film's screenwriter, came along. Although it says in the credits that it's based on actual events, I'm of course unable to verify every single detail in the script for their historical accuracy besides the - easily verifiable - fact that Lionel Logue was King George VI's speech therapist. But one thing I do know, life seldom plays out like a movie - and the twists and turns in this film's screenplay simply have 'story development' written all over them. Which is fine by me. But don't try to sell me this film as the masterpiece it's claimed to be because it ain't.

In fact, the greatness of Hooper's film lies not so much in the writing, but - you guessed it! - in the acting. Both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are outstanding and a pleasure to watch. And so is Helena Bonham-Carter, never mind that she's playing her usual flippant, witty, self. Thing is, she does it well. It's this trio, their interactions, that makes Hooper's film exceptional.

The King's Speech is a nostalgic if not sentimental, look back in history. Heritage film-making at top-level. Conventional, yes - but also very entertaining and beautiful to look at, too.