Sunday, 16 January 2011

The King's Speech (& The Social Network)

There is an interesting feature in common with the two biggest box office hits among my upcoming top ten for 2010. When I first heard the storylines of The King’s Speech and The Social Network my initial reaction was an uninterested, “Really? Someone would make a movie about that?” That both of these movies have been widely appreciated is evidence of the power of scriptwriting, character development and acting to make an apparently unappealing plot into an engaging film.

They are also both based on true stories which, somewhat unexpectedly, would turn out to have a fair amount of significance in their respective societies. And both are quite intelligent films with large doses of wit sprinkled through otherwise serious dramas.

I assume that it is coincidence, though, that in the end these two popular movies provide a reflection of two very distinct societies. The Social Network uses characteristically fast-paced Aaron Sorkin dialogue to tell the fast-paced story of Facebook. One of my first surprises was being reminded that the whole adventure only started in 2004. When I, somewhat reluctantly, succumbed to Facebook in 2006, I felt like I had resisted for years. This is our present culture that seems to re-write its rules overnight. The people involved pretty much all seem shallow and immature. The goal of the enterprise seemed to be all about helping students find casual hook-ups and the developers look cool, attracting others trying to make ridiculous amounts of money. There is character development in this film, but it’s mostly people developing sideways – slipping from one type of immaturity into another and bouncing between betrayals, unable to find any roots in order to gain some depth.

The King’s Speech, on the other hand, (sorry - spoiler warning) demonstrates that wit does not need to blaze along at a Sorkin pace in order to be effective. This film has room for silence and for waiting, without making you impatient or bored. This is a story of a relationship that against expectations is about lifelong mutual loyalty and friendship. It is a movie about small incremental changes over a long period of time that are enough. The dark side of the era still shows through – the stuffy authorities, hierarchies and demands that threaten self-esteem, relationship and creativity – but, in the film at least, these limitations could be overcome by those with determination and self-respect.

Now, having written this, I’ve just noticed your own review, Vic, so let me make two more comments. First, in agreement, I would say all the acting was spot-on – Rush’s and Carter’s as much as Firth’s. Second, I am quite curious about your disappointment about the climax – perhaps I was so overcome by two of my favourite pieces of Beethoven that I was fooled. I thought it worked well within the appropriate limitations of history. This gets **** from me – two mugs up high on this one.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent reviews!

    As you will see tomorrow, The King's Speech is in my top ten of 2010, so the climax was not that significant. And I absolutely loved the choice of music. However, that it had to be a war speech of all things, which I find so fundamentally offensive in principle, could not help but leave me disappointed, no matter what the historical context.