Yesterday, while my wife and daughter went to the Pantages to see West Side Story (more on that later), I went to go see “The Kings Speech” at the Arclight Hollywood. Before I go into the movie, a few words about the theatre itself. Arclight is an interesting chain. They do reserved seating for showings, and do not seat people after the movie has started. They do no advertising, either before a show starts or in the trailer reel. They only run about 3 previews. For this, you pay a bit more (and they validated parking). They also have the usher actually welcome you to the showing, remind you personally to shut off electronic devices, etc. All in all, it was very nice execution for a movie theatre; something you no longer see these days. The theatre I was at was an Arclight multiplex next to the original Cinerama dome, which they program as well. Although my movie wasn’t in the dome (“True Grit” was), it was nice to walk around the dome and get the sense of history.
Anyway, as to the movie itself. The movie tells a real-life story of the ascension of King George VI (a period that was also covered well in the musical “Only a Kingdom” that we saw at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1998). Whereas the musical focused on the love story of Edward (a/k/a David) (King Edward VIII) and Wallis Simpson and how that love led him to give up the crown, this movie focuses on his brother Albert (King George VI). Albert’s problem was that he stammered so much that he was an ineffectual public speaker. This wouldn’t have been a problem if he had been a commoner, but he was 2nd in line to the throne, and royals are expected to speak. The movie tells the story of how he overcame the speech difficulty with the help of a speech therapist (Lionel Logue), and how the king and the commoner became friends. It also tells the parallel story of the death of King George V, the turbulent period of King Edward VIII’s brief rule, and the ascension of King George VI as Great Britain entered into World War II.
This was a story I hadn’t known before, and I found it quite interesting. It made for a good drama, because it had that key element that makes a successful story: character growth. At least in the main characters, we saw significant growth from beginning to end: we saw how Albert (George VI) grew from a nervous public speaker into a confident king; we also saw Lionel grow from a gruff coach into a friend that respected Albert. Other characters saw less growth (Edward) or were more charactures (Wallis Simpson, Churchill). But that was only a minor problem.
The acting in this production was top-notch. The leads were Colin Firth as Albert (King George VI); Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother); and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue. All three were perfection in their roles and a delight to watch. Other signficant actors were Guy Pearce as Edward (King Edward VIII) and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill. You can find a full cast listing here.
“The King’s Speech” was directed by Tom Hooper, with cinametography by Danny Cohen. Most of the time, when I see a movie, I notice the cinemetography and how the camera angles add or detract from the story. I must complement the director and the cinemetography here for I didn’t notice the distinctly cinematic aspects at all. They told the story in such a way that the story came first, and the production tricks blended into the background. This is great storytelling.
“The King’s Speech” was rated “R”, primarily for the use of curse words as Edward overcomes his speaking difficulty. That was an idiotic rating for this unique historical story. Ignore the rating and go see this movie, be it in a theatre or in the comfort of your home.
Previews. There were three previews at this show. The first was for “Frankie and Alice”, which looks to be a tour de force for Halle Berry—a strong performance drama that likely won’t do well at the box office. The second was for “The Rite”, a horror film about exorcism that looks completely uninteresting. The third preview was for “The Company Men”, a recession-drama about a man who loses his job and has to refind himself. This last one looks interesting, but I don’t think it is interesting enough to get myself to a movie theatre for.
West Side Story. Oh, and as for “West Side Story”: I’m glad I didn’t see it. According to my family, the trick of having the Jets speak in English and the Sharks in Spanish didn’t work, and made the story disjointed. Although the dancing was good, the leads of Tony and Maria weren’t of professional quality. The only complementary word about an actor I heard was for the actress playing Anita and the actor playing Doc. This basically agrees with the scathing Los Angeles Times review, which is well worth reading if you are a fan of bad reviews. On the whole, I think I made the right choice.
Upcoming Movies: Today is Christmas, and I’m Jewish. Yup, that means we should be seeing a movie today. Most likely, we’ll be at the Pacific Winnetka 21 finally seeing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1”. There’s a slight possibility we might see “Tangled” instead, but I’d put that at <10%. Nothing else is the least bit interesting.