The Best Picture Project – The King’s Speech (2010)

Directed by Tom Hooper

Screenplay by David Seidler

Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce

I’m torn when it comes to evaluating The King’s Speech and it’s victory in the Best Picture race.  After all, I’ve been kind to past Best Pictures winners solely because the film had an outstanding lead performance, the type of performance where the film would have failed should it have not been outstanding.  In essence, I made the tacit argument that a strong central performance which carried the burden of the film somehow justified it being seen as ‘best’.   Unfortunately, though, while I might have tacitly argued this, I never explicitly did so and so I feel comfortable hiding behind a bit of semantics.

A well dressed man and woman standing side by side in period dressTo get down to brass tacks, it is undoubting that The King’s Speech has a marvelous performance from Colin Firth.   Unlike other actors who parlayed a performance of a handicap into an Oscar, Firth goes beyond simple manners and mannerisms and invests his king with real pathos.  In other words, he’s not simply relaying the character’s tics, he’s playing the real person.  If you don’t believe me that he goes beyond simple mechanics to real portrayal, watch the sequence where Firth relays the story of his childhood nanny, the one who favored his brother over him, and who was inadvertently responsible for his stammer.  Given that most people have some bit of pain in their childhood, it’s not difficult to see a little bit of his pain in ourselves. I defy you to watch that scene, and Firth’s performance in particular, without being moved.  I also defy you to explain whether you were moved by the mannerisms or the true emotion of the scene.

Nevertheless, Firth gives a marvelous performance, but for me, simply bringing a good performance to the table is not enough for a film to win Best Picture.  I know I’ve already touched on quite of bit of my feeling on The King’s Speech Best Picture worthiness in two previous posts – here and here – so I won’t go too heavily into the reasons for my criticism here beyond saying that while Firth is endlessly watchable, there are times when the movie itself seems endless.  It’s overlong and repetitive and has a fairly unsatisfying climax.  Yes, the king gives a speech, but no, he doesn’t give it particularly well.  Perhaps I might have a different feeling on the matter should the film be 10-15 minutes shorter, but as it’s not, I’m eager to say I’m not in love with it.  It’s an ‘okay’ film, at best, and I just can’t make an argument for an ‘okay’ film to be Best Picture.

The poster for the film shows Natalie Portman with white facial makeup, black-winged eye liner around bloodshot red eyes, and a jagged crystal tiara.While an ‘okay’ film winning Best Picture is maddening enough, that it triumphed over a treasure-trove of future classics is mind boggling.  After all, the race included the twisty, cerebral, caper-film, Inception, the endlessly dynamic and compelling, The Social Network, and my personal favorite, the exhilaratingly ambiguous as Black Swan.  I could easily make the argument that each of those films had the qualities of a Best Picture winner, which is not something I’m ever prepared to do for The King’s Speech.

 

Trivia

The “Don’t Stop Me Now, I’m On A Roll Award,” in this post goes to Guy Pearce.  After a supporting turn in The Hurt Locker, 2009, and his supporting turn in The King’s Speech, he joins such other actors as Meryl Streep (The Deer Hunter, Best Picture Winner 1978, and 1979′s Best Picture, Kramer v. Kramer), Ian Charleson (Chariots of Fire , Best Picture 1981, and Gandhi, Best Picture 1982) and Walter Pidgeon (How Green Was My Valley, Best Picture 1941, and Mrs. Miniver, Best Picture 1942) as one of the rare instances when an actor has appeared in Back-to-Back Best Picture Oscar winners.

For the other winners and films left to see, click here.

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