Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Film, music and fashion expert Edith Bowman loves The King's Speech (2010) because she thought it made the Royal Family “accessible” and she liked where the director “put the camera”. This is just one reason for me to detest the film and another on a list of millions of reasons to hate Edith Bowman.
Personally, I do not want access to the Royal family. I couldn’t care less about them. Yes, they do charity work but I have more respect for someone who sits in a bath of baked beans or has every last morsel of body hair waxed out for cash, not someone who drains resources. I am fully aware that members of the royal family are human beings. I am not so stupid that I have to see them humanised before my eyes and I know that they are born into the Royal family, that they have no choice. But there are children born to Crystal meth addicts that also have no choice. Which is worse? How am I supposed to sympathise with someone born at the highest height of social order?
So, the King, he struggles with a speech Impediment and undergoes intensive treatment so he is able to deliver an important speech. The speech itself is about the impending Second World War. Great!, I know if I was sat at home listening to my radio in those days, I wouldn’t care that Hitler was on his way, I wouldn’t care that there was potential for devastation on a mass scale, all I would care about was that the King, delivering the speech, had done so with clarity and not a single stammer. Hitler’s coming but who cares, the well protected, well respected, wealthy King can talk properly. It really doesn’t matter about the potential deaths, the King can speak, how heart-warming!
Colin Firth, who earned my respect with his incredible performance in A Single Man (2009) quickly morphed back into a hate figure after watching him play King George VI. I was eager to see Firth deliver but his accent…, The lazy ‘R’s, made him sound like Barbara Windsor, there were noticeable occasions on which he would pronounce a word in a certain way, “Please” for example was pronounced “Pwease”, like some kind of spoiled Bonnie Langford Drama school weasel. Seconds later, he would pronounce the word correctly with aplomb - a huge contradiction and a major flaw in his “incredible” performance.
Guy Pearce was awful, a caricature of royalty, like a spitting image puppet of Kenneth Williams. He clearly read the script as a comedy and slotted in incongruously amidst the pomposity of the rest of the cast. Helena Bonham Carter hardly stretched herself. Her biggest achievement was having the same shaped head as the Queen Mother. When I see a film, I want the actors to move me, I want to feel for the characters or hate them, but here all I could see were actors acting and acting badly at that.
Tom Hooper is not a brilliant director and definitely not Oscar worthy. A good director brings their vision to life and takes the audience somewhere new. How many times have we been here? It’s a proven topic for American success (The Queen, Young Victoria, Mrs Brown to name but a few). Plaudits shouldn’t be given to a man who points the camera at his subjects and tells them to act. Hooper is no auter, he will never make another film (unless it’s the King's Speech 2: Stammer Time) and it be recognised as a Hooper film and I know I am right here. Take David Fincher for example, The Social Network (2010) on paper shouldn’t work but with his skills as a director, the linearity of the story was delivered with the skill and thrill that he nurtured with his earlier films such as Panic Room (2002). Stylistically, Fincher’s films are instantly recognisable. If you look at the music videos he directed, the director found his feet early on and has always maintained an identifiable aesthetic. The Social Network is the movie that captures the zeitgeist and reflects the international shift in social communication. It’s intelligent, well written, beautifully crafted and typically Fincher. Typical Tom Hooper is a few episodes of Byker Grove, Prime Suspect, The Damned United and The King's Speech.
The set in which King George VI receives his vocal coaching wasn’t built specifically for the film and is not an original location. It was on a list of locations that had been used previously for porn films. There was no particular vision coming to life, more of a “that’ll do” attitude. When a director is really doing his job, he is bringing a vision to life, Christopher Nolan, for example, brought the dream world of Inception (2010) (another film I didn’t like) to the screen, his vision was realised and presented brilliantly, but to the point that it overshadowed the weak plot. But at least as a director we are able to see him doing his job. There is evidence in his work. Can anyone name a single scene in The King's Speech where the art of directing had hit a new peak? Will any director or film-maker cite Tom Hooper as an influential or as an inspiration?
The script is utterly hideous. It was this that made me sit up in the cinema and look around as if to ask “Is anyone actually falling for this?” Every time I heard a laugh, I was slapped in the face with the wet flannel of disbelief. How can an audience fall for something so formulaic and contrived? I speak of the part in which the king can only overcome his impediment by shouting out swearwords. This was done brilliantly some time ago by Emily Lloyd’s character in Wish You Were Here (1987), it was hilarious back then listening to her alphabetizing swearwords “Bloody, bugger, bastard, bum”. But since then British films seem to have to include swearwords to whack a British stamp on it. Remember Martine McCutcheon in Love Actually (2003) and her affair with Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister? “Oh Piss it!” She would declare as she was so working class she had no concept of self-censorship. “Oh Fuck it Prime Minister, Let me make you a pissing cup of tea” She didn’t say that but you get the point.
Now, I can’t remember whether it was Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999) or both and I have no interest in revisiting either, but I know for a fact that whichever uppity character Hugh Grant was playing we as an audience were subjected to him running down the street shouting “Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck” and didn’t we “Piss it” at that? Here is where my problem with The King's Speech lies. If the only way to make the film funny is to stick swearwords in it, then it really plunges way beneath moronic depths but to literally lift the delivery of the swearwords from formerly successful Brit-films is downright disrespectful to our intelligence. But… People loved it!
I can and will argue the case against Tom Hooper and against The King's Speech until I am blue in the face but I am writing this now so that in ten years time I can look back and know that I was right. Tom Hooper will never be a great director. He will never succumb to the auter status of his contemporaries. The King's Speech will fade away. It doesn’t have the characteristics of a classic. The only explanation I have for the success of The King's Speech in the USA, is that it plays to the American ideology and fantasy of British-ness and Royalty is de rigueur at the moment what with the Wedding and all. The Only reason the British public are flocking to it is because we live in a nation of sheep, a nation of people who fear their intelligence may be judged if they dare to disagree with social opinion, either that or it’s some form of treason to declare your loathing of the film. In which case, goodbye head, it was good while it lasted (well, apart from the 2hrs wasted watching K***'s S****h).
For Tom Hooper’s next film may I suggest the story of a wealthy billionaire banker who misses an important meeting at the World Trade Centre because he has to go into hospital to have an in-growing toenail removed. Missing the meeting costs him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Luckily the Twin Towers get hit by planes, not only is his life saved but the waste management company he has shares in is contracted to clear the rubble in a £100 Million dollar deal. How heart-warming?