Two recently seen films based on real people and actual events…
The King’s Speech which opened this week is an amazing, true story of gritty determination in the face of personal humiliation, to triumph over disability. British King George VI (Colin Firth) took over from his brother who abdicated because of a “scandalous” relationship with an American divorcee, and reigned from 1936 – 1952. He had a debilitating speech stammer since childhood and was unable to speak in public. All the Kings horses and all the king’s speech therapists couldn’t get the king to speak coherently again. And when Britain entered WWII against Hitler’s Germany, the country looked to its king for moral support. Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a self-taught, unconventional speech therapist from Australia who agreed to take on the challenge. But Logue had the chutzpah to insist that their arrangement be on his terms, which included interacting as equals with his highness, whom like others in the royal family, he called Bertie.
It wasn’t a deep cutting social commentary but The King’s Speech provided a pretty revealing glimpse at what goes on inside the palace walls including parenting that borders on child abuse. Issues of class and privilege were held up to the mirror as Bertie and Lionel developed a genuine friendship based on trust and mutual respect. Firth and Rush were first rate as were supporting performances by Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Guy Pearce as his elder brother Edward VIII, Michael Bambon as King George V. The plot was advanced smoothly under the direction of Tom Hooper. Don’t be surprised to see The King’s Speech as a big winner in this year’s Academy Awards.
Classic, n., A work of acknowledged excellence and authority, something that is a perfect example of a particular style, something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality
Every once in a great while you see a new movie (or go to the theater or read a book for that matter) that has the feel of an instant classic. Get Low, the finale to the Stony Brook Fall Film Festival has that feel. As the film opens we are immediately engaged in the intriguing drama of Felix Bush (played by Robert Duvall), an eccentric elderly recluse living with his mule in the hills of Tennessee in the 1930s. Based on a true story, Felix contacts the local undertaker (Bill Murray) and his assistant (Lucas Black) for help in arranging his own funeral – only he wants to hold it before he dies so he can hear what people will say about him.
At this level the film operates as a laugh out loud comedy with Bill Murray at his droll best seeing Felix’ request as an opportunity to revitalize his sagging business. But a mysterious dark side soon emerges as we begin to learn clues about the real motivation that Felix has in orchestrating his funeral. An old friend (Sissy Spacek) and former minister (Bill Cobbs) with ties to Felix’ past appear with additional pieces to the puzzle. The film concludes with the funeral service/carnival (raffle tickets to Felix’ property were sold to attract a large crowd) but it is Felix who has the last word as the crowd (and audience) are transfixed by his revelations. Duvall is nothing short of stunning in his portrayal of this tortured soul. Surprisingly it made a quick pass through the theaters – hopefully it will make a return engagement or be available on DVD. Don’t miss this one.