Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Kings Speech; As always, it's the supporting actors who you root for

The King's Speech is actually a pretty good movie, but the attention is all going on Colin Firth as the King. He's got a stammer and angst and gets to do all the big gaudy stuff, but it's the people around him that are doing the really interesting work; Helena Bonham Carter steals most of her scenes as a wonderfully perky Queen, for example. But it's almost distracting; is that Derek Jacobi? Didn't he play someone with a stammer once? Who's that playing Edward Fox playing Edward VIII? Good lord, it's Guy Pearce. Good Lord, I thought Dr Fancypants from Nurse Jackie was a Brit. How come she's playing Wallis Simpson? Golly, is that Karen from Outnumbered playing Princess Margaret? Who's that playing George V? It's only bloody Michael Gambon, innit. And his missus? That's Claire Bloom. There's Alan Rickman's henchman from Sweeney Todd, and he's playing bloody Churchill, inne?

With all that going on the background it's easy to lose track of the two big names. Geoffrey Rush has the harder part, in that he's playing someone who's never supposed to get excited about anything. One of his best moments is trying out for Richard III in an amateur troupe and not getting any respect at all. I don't know if it's hard for a good actor to give a bad performance on purpose, but it must take exquisite judgment to give a performance which feels just like someone who's really just not that good. It's actually, as it turns out, an important bit of foreshadowing, but it works just as well as a little insight into the fuller world of Rush's character.

Firth is fine, but it's one of those deals where you think to yourself "Why does Hollywood always think that it's good acting to show us someone struggling against a handicap?" And I suppose I also thought "Lord, the crippling handicaps are getting less and less crippling these days, aren't they?" Every year for as long as I can remember, one of the Oscar bait movies has been either about someone with a disability, or someone in the Holocaust. I probably blinked one year and missed the ultimate shot, with someone both disabled and in the Holocaust at the same time.

Which is not to say that it's not worth seeing. It's genuinely worth the time. It's just that sometimes I'd like to see an actor getting praised for creating a credible ordinary person. Which in a lot of ways is exactly what Geoffrey Rush does in this movie. But when did Rush get his big moment? - when he played someone with crippling mental illness 15 years ago. Sort of bears out my thinking.

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