And now I’m in a weird position, as the discussion about The King’s Speech has evolved from “heart-warming little movie you should try to catch” to “Oscar-bait Brit-flick that’s going to steal the gold from The Social Network.” It’s become a real war online among the geeks who get perturbed by the Oscar race.
I don’t count myself as one of those geeks. I do get into the horse race aspect of the Oscars, and I’ll certainly root for my favorites to win, but I’m long past getting upset when something safe and obvious wins over something daring and exciting. I think Dances With Wolves defeating Goodfellas pretty much killed the Oscars in my mind as any true barometer of great cinema.
Since then, only a couple of Best Picture winners have been at or near the very top of my personal lists — Schindler’s List and No Country For Old Men.
So even though I liked The Social Network more than The King’s Speech, I’m hardly losing sleep over the latter’s rapid ascent to front-runner status. I loved them both. And my vote would go to Toy Story 3, anyway.
That said, all the ugliness over the award season has tainted The King’s Speech a bit in my mind. I have visions of Harvey Weinstein back from the dead and steering another Academy-friendly costume drama into the winner’s circle, and that’s never a pretty picture. It’s a shame that this debate has tarnished an excellent film in some small way.
I doubt I’ll be revisiting The King’s Speech much five or ten years from now. My recent look back at my top ten lists from the past decade suggests that this is exactly the sort of movie that will fade in my estimation over time.
But right now, the thought that keeps returning to me about this film is that one of the most intimate moments I saw onscreen all year was between two crabby Brits facing each other across a microphone.
And that kind of sums up what works so well in The King’s Speech — the powerful relationship formed between a king and his speech therapist, two men from completely different worlds who agree to treat each other as equals. The scenes between Geoffrey Rush (as Lionel Logue) and Colin Firth (as King George VI) are splendidly written, acted and directed, as the King’s initial skepticism gives way to begrudging respect and eventually blooms into a lasting friendship.
I believe that friendship, and not all of the soul-stirring “beating the odds” feel-good movie stuff, is what has made The King’s Speech resonate so much with audiences and Oscar voters. How rare it is to see a film about two men learning to value and love each other.
It’s interesting that the film about a man who built a network of 500 million friends is likely to be beaten out by the film about a man whose life is saved by just one.