January 2011 posts
THE KING’S SPEECH (2010/IN THEATERS) Remember this? The People’s Choice from the 2008 Toronto Film Festival was Slumdog Millionaire, which went on to be the big Oscar winner in 2009. 2010’s People’s Choice is The King’s Speech, which tells the true story of King George VI (Colin Firth) and his battle to overcome a severe stutter. The movie is very solid and holds a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating among top critics. It’s a crowd-pleaser also and can be enjoyed by the entire family, exhibiting all the best aspects of British Monarchy films—gorgeous sets, period costumes, real world details combined with strong casting. Firth is seriously impressive in the role; he is the logical Oscar winner this year, unless James Franco takes it for 127 Hours, ironically directed by Slumdog’s Danny Boyle. Firth was up last year for his incredible work in A Single Man so King’s Speech marks two in a row—thank heavens Firth is getting these great roles. Enough of Bridget Jones sequels and fluff like What a Girl Wants. Equally strong are Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother to the current reigning Queen Elizabeth, not so favorably presented in The Queen as we may recall) and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the real life Australian who enables the King to overcome (or at least manage) his affliction. Also lovely in small parts are Guy Pearce as Edward VIII who famously abdicated the throne to marry a thrice divorced American (Wallis Simpson—played as a horrific socialite here by Eve Best). And in a lovely touch, Derek Jacoby, who stuttered so well in I, Claudius, is cast as the Archbishop of Canterbury. King’s Speech has already won 5 British Indpendent Film Awards (Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actor for Firth, Supporting Actor for Rush and Supporting Actress for Bonham Carter). On to the Oscars!
Grade: A Solid.
BTW: Yesterday’s Talk of the Nation on NPR featured a discussion of stuttering and some very complimentary remarks about the film from Kristin Chmela, a Speech Pathologist. I found the following most interesting:
“And the other one that I loved was how they filmed it. When he was stuttering and they put the camera as if the viewer of the movie was the person stuttering so that you could watch the reactions of the people listening, that look in their eye, the shift in their body language. That is something I think all stutterers recognize. And I thought that was extremely powerful to get a sense of what that might feel like when you’re watching people watching you, and you cannot speak.”
To hear the rest of the show, follow the link.
TRUE GRIT (2010/IN THEATERS) Finally! I have been waiting since its December 24th opening to catch the Coen Brothers’ latest—what a treat. As always from the Coens, the film is tight: perfectly cast, perfectly shot, with moments of sly comedy as well as moments of true violence. Those who have read the Charles Portis novel (I have not) say the movie, as promised by the Coens, is true to the book. The dialogue—wonderfully “stilted” with formal phrasings—is representative of the period and includes the occasional scripture quote from the young heroine Mattie Ross, out to revenge the killing of her father (and also to do a bit of “horse trading” with a wonderful character actor Dakin Matthews as Col. Stonehill). Mattie is beautifully portrayed by young Hailee Steinfeld, selected from a field of 15,000 candidates for the role. Steinfeld was13 years old when filming occurred and this is her first performance—she is 14 now. Jeff Bridges is perfect as Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon is wonderful as the pompous Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (pronounced La Beef). The trio of Mattie, LaBoeuf and Cogburn make up the “good guys” for this flick—on the “bad guys” side we have Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney, murderer of Mattie’s father, and Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper, head of the gang Chaney is with at the time of the action. Neither Brolin nor Barry Pepper have much screen time, but their few minutes are spot-on. Altogether a wonderful Western and one not to be missed.
BTW: Catch this cute interview with Steinfeld at the movie’s premiere. She is a normal teenager.