Sunday, January 23, 2011

The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010) -- D

The King's Speech easily qualifies as the most middlebrow movie of the year - pandering, generic, calculated, and cynically melodramatic - manufactured to trick the 60+ crowd (or any naive person, for that matter) in to thinking they've seen something profound, inspiring, and well-crafted. So it's no wonder that it is steadily eclipsing the far more deserving The Social Network in this year's best picture race. Almost on cue, the PGA recently awarded Tom Hooper's travesty its top prize - a move that signals a disinterest in complex social and psychological investigation, opting instead for political reverence and upholding the status quo. If that were The King's Speech's only transgression, it would be merely a trifle. Calculated as formula by its filmmakers to manipulate the target viewer's sensibilities and vulnerabilities, it becomes execrable.

Wafts of shit abound. The cinematography falsely bestows the sense of movement and fluidity, often tracking in front of soon-to-king George VI (Colin Firth), as if to suggest he's deserving of veneration. There's nothing artistically sophisticated about this - any half-wit can turn on a camera and track in front of the actor. Likewise, many shots which place George (or Bertie, an insufferably cute nickname) near the edge of the frame do relatively little to suggest aesthetic value or consideration, other than the obvious "on-edge" metaphor, essentially the most hackneyed visual tick in the book. Moreover, the film goes to great lengths to explain George's stutter (played to mannered, histrionic nausea by Firth) as some sort of daddy/sibling rivalry issue. Amidst this, unorthodox speech therapist Lionel (Geoffrey Rush) comes to the seemingly helpless king's rescue - and to be sure, the film uses several montages and ironic exchanges to pound home the presence of George's perseverance. More pounding comes in the form of the film's bizarre hero worship, as Lionel's wife and family become absolutely disheveled (almost to the point of fainting) once it's learned who his latest patient is. Furthering this misstep is the film's ridiculous aligning of George's persistence with nationalism, as his overcoming of the speech impediment coincides with the commencing of WWII. Literally, the film ends just as the war begins, an egregiously offensive bit of revisionist history suggesting personal triumph as national. George even states to one of his daughter's at the end that "your daddy is a great man today," ignorant to the suggestion of political indoctrination through nepotism - or at least, apathetic to the inherently troublesome suggestion of it. It's a microcosm for the film's meaninglessness and insistence on hollowly putting a smile on every viewer's face. For fuck's sake, it literally ends with a title card reading "George and Lionel remained friends for the rest of their lives," reassuring everyone that, if you were the least bit uncertain everything ends happily ever after, there need be no worries. The King's Speech deserves desecration, not veneration.

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