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New Release Review - The King's Speech


Directed by: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall

King George VI (Firth) overcomes his stammer with the aid of a maverick Aussie speech therapist (Rush).
I really enjoyed Hooper's debut, the Brian Clough biopic "The Damned United". It was a well told entertaining tale, sadly his difficult second movie is neither well told nor entertaining.There are a few things that I can't abide in movies and this contains so many irritants for me I've made a list.



  • Exploitation of physical defects:The hook of this film is that it's protagonist suffers from a stammer. Give Firth the oscar now. How long must this cheap lazy technique be constantly rewarded come awards season? Shouldn't the rewards go to film-makers who can create engaging characters without giving them some kind of heartstring-tugging defect. I just couldn't get behind this character, he was one of the most powerful and rich men in the world, do I give a shit that he stuttered his "W"'s? No, it's not an interesting story.
  • Swearing for comic effect: I'm no prude but when profanity is used to generate cheap laughs it riles me up like fart jokes. There's a scene in this where Firth is forced to swear like a trooper as part of his therapy. Oh how hilarious, a royal is cursing, how I laughed. Eh, no I didn't actually. This is 2011, we're way past that.
  • Unoriginal use of music: There are so many different pieces of music in the world that if you tried you couldn't live long enough to hear them all. So why do film-makers insist on regurgitating the same tunes over and over. How many times have you heard "Hallelujah" or "Sympathy For The Devil" on a soundtrack? This movie is guilty of using classical pieces that we've heard countless times before in films. It does with classical music what "Watchmen" did with popular music. For me, if a film-maker is the first to use a piece of music he owns it's emotional effect, he's created a visual association for the piece. If someone else uses it later it's as bad as stealing a previous movie's dialogue.
  • Quirky camerawork: Film is a language, it has it's own grammar. When a film-maker messes around with that grammar the effect on the audience is akin to inserting French words into a German sentence. Here Hooper employs some really irritating techniques such as using a wide-angle lens to shoot close-ups. This exaggerates an actors face in a hall of mirrors kind of way. The Coen brothers employed this in their early films a lot and any Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie is full of this. (Look at "Alien Resurrection", it's employed so much as to make the movie unwatchable for me.) Also the off-kilter framing in this film renders it very uncomfortable to watch, creating a kind of visual claustrophobia I found hard to stomach.
  • Cultural exploitation: In the eighties the British Film Industry was on it's knees. Then came "Chariots of Fire", Merchant & Ivory, and countless stuffy dramas set on sprawling estates at the turn of the century. The reason for this was because you couldn't get funding for your movie if it didn't have some "cultural significance". Basically it had to be recognisably "British", or rather what American audiences recognised as being "British". Over the past fifteen years or so the British Film Industry has shaken this off but this movie feels like a throwback to those dark days.
Unfortunately this will probably bag a haul of Oscars, it ticks all the right boxes. Sadly for this reviewer it ticks all the wrong boxes.
1/10






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