The King's Speech (UK, 2010, Tom Hooper)
I reviewed The Social Network even before the ultimately misguided buzz that it was going to sweep the Oscars and here I am now reviewing The King's Speech after it has indeed swept the Oscars. I agree with the Academy that the latter is considerably superior to the former. But for my money the two films are in one essential respect equal.
Both of them make a mountain out of a molehole. As far as subject matter goes, for me the choice between the origin of Facebook and the speech impediment of a monarch isn't an especially delicious dilemma. To quote the recently deceased Gerry Rafferty: "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you."
I will brag that in my review of The Social Network my opening comment was that the film "should be required viewing by all first year screen writing students. Aaron Sorkin does a masterful job of spinning genuinely engaging dialogue out of basically boring characters in an even less interesting story. All of the drama in this film is manufactured by the fictitious verbal exchanges... none of it comes from the facts." If memory serves, Sorkin was awarded the prize for Best Original Screenplay.
As to the molehill out of which Sorkin crafted his mountain, I allowed that "the topic merits attention. But it is much too historically recent to report on this matter in this sort of Hollywood product. It should be addressed in a documentary. But what do you expect from a screenwriter who thinks nothing of turning the executive level machinations of the US federal government into a soap opera?"
What The King's Speech does - on the same coin, just the other side of it; indeed, on the "heads" side - is turn the soap opera of a monarch's personal affliction into a supremely important problem for the executive level machinations of the British Empire. If I can concede that the origin of Facebook is a topic that merits documentary attention, I certainly can allow the same for the historical significance of George VI's struggle to say a thing or two to his loyal subjects through the mass media.
But whomping it up into a theatre piece - a large-scale human interest drama complete with little life lessons about the nature of true friendship that transcends class boundaries simply with a small dose of humility and a large helping of plucky good humour - this can only be attractive fare for groupies of the Royal Family who like their feudal celebrities brought down to democratic earth.
The performances are very good. There is intelligence and wit in the dialogue. Oddly enough, the set design and cinematography - much more so for the interiors at the speech therapist's place rather than the king's palace - gave me a David Lynch lite feeling, or perhaps a bit of a Tim Burton vibe; giving the therapist's character a slightly enchanted backdrop for his slightly enchanting Annie-Sullivan-meets-Willy-Wonka way about him. But all of this amounts to a big so what? for me.