Wow, I am almost to the end of this month. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished anything (besides getting to the end of the month) but it’s what I said I would do, so. . .
I went to see the movie The King’s Speech tonight, which stars Colin Firth. This movie included a lot of the superficial things I like in movies — British accents, period costumes (including nice suits and uniforms on the men), and, well, Colin Firth. It also had some of the movie complex things I like in movies: knotty family relationships and conversations in which people can’t even decide which names to call each other. I have a whole thing where names and discussion about names being very important in fiction. This movie is hard to even talk about, unless you stick to the actors’ names, because everybody is called three or four different things (name, title, nickname) and it keeps changing whoever does the calling and when the scene takes place. I’m one of those people who watched Battlestar Galactica for two seasons without knowing the difference between a Viper and a Raptor but could have a twenty minute conversation about why a character said “Apollo” instead of “Lee” in a particular scene. I don’t have a good explanation for why this is (too many Russian novels at an impressionable age, maybe, or too many superhero comics). It’s funny because I’m actually pretty indifferent to what you call me in real life (though probably I should not ask people to stretch that point). But then, things that are big signifiers in planned-out stories are things that just kind of happen in the real world, and names are part of that.
Another big thing I love that this movie had in spades: I love it when characters talk around their problems, and do anything to avoid being direct and honest and get to the point, and then something happens to make them emotional and all of a sudden they blurt it out. There’s probably a scene like that in every piece of fiction I’ve ever written. And this is basically what The King’s Speech is about. Colin Firth is the Duke of York/Bertie/George VI, and he literally lacks a voice due to a severe stammer. The whole story is about helping him learn how to speak which is related (in this admittedly rather overdetermined screenplay, anyway) to discovering how to be honest and finding something to say.
The resolution of the film is a bit too “Go England, Beat Hitler!” for my taste. I’d rather have dug a little deeper into his family relationships and not just for the chance to see Guy Pearce, as his brother Edward who is for some reason called David, wear tweed jackets and white sweaters and use the word “king” as a verb and be generally bitchy. (Pearce: I’ve been busy. Firth: Doing what? Pearce: Kinging!) I came out of this rather desperate to see Guy Pearce play Shakespeare’s Richard II who, in a modern dress production of the play, would wear exactly those same sweaters. Pearce is underused here, in other words, but it’s a perfect role for Firth. All the proper Englishness that is confining Bertie here also tends to constrain our image of Firth, and his performance here is about breaking out of that. In the course of doing so, he gets to say “fuck” a lot. I mean, a lot a lot.
As I was leaving the theater with my friend K, we had the following conversation:
Me: I feel like the British people in that movie were kind of ungrateful. I mean, why did they need to hear him talk to be inspired, when you can be inspired just by how well Colin Firth wears a jacket.
K: That’s what inspired the British people today.