Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #29 - I actually saw a movie

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In the theater and everything. Amazing, isn't it? When I go into a movie with high expectations, there's always a bit of fear that things won't go as I'd hoped, and so when the previews begin (and the previews here put a few films on my to-see list) I'm teetering on the brink of "this is going to be good" and "it's not too late to leave and spend the time with a good book instead." I have yet to walk out at that stage yet, and it would be impolite to the friend I'd gone with, so I did stay and I'm glad I did.

I loved this movie. As in goopy, drippy, sobbingly loved it. English historical setting, location shooting, Colin Firth, even a bit o'Brideshead with Anthony Andrews in a supporting role, and superb acting all the way around are all surefire Anna bait. From the very first scene, we aren't told "Prince Albert is nervous about public speaking because he stammers." Instead, we get to see the agony that plays out behind the royal calm, how the man who walks toward his duty of addressing the empire would much rather be anywhere else, doing anything else, but he doesn't have that choice. We feel the Duty with capitol D, and we know what is important to this character and what he will do to get it as well as what stands in his way.

The relationships make this film, the way the Royal family is truly a family. Bertie is prince, then king, but also a son, brother, husband, father and friend, who cares about those close to him. His wife agonizes over the obstacles her beloved faces and takes steps to help him even though he may not (and doesn't) appreciate it at first. The difference in the ways Bertie and his children relate to each other before and after his brother David's abdication underline the shift in his status, and we see him make the choice to still remain Papa even when he does ascend the throne.

This, like all the stories I love best, is a love story. Between Bertie and his family, between King and country, and the lifelong friendship that forms between Bertie and his speech therapist, Lionel, who gives Bertie the gift of being treated as an equal. the scene where Lionel gives Bertie permission to finish a model airplane is a tearjerker in the very most rewarding way.

Which is another thing I need to mention. I cried. A lot. I felt Bertie's agony and the fetteredness and the anger and wanted to reach into the screen and give David a strong shake. I sobbed when Bertie's father died and the very first thing the newly minted Queen Mother had to do was pay obeisance to her older son, now the new King. Then again at that same man's look of utter wretchedness, because his new status traps him away from the woman he loves; well done, Mr Pearce. I wanted to sit beside Elizabeth in that sisterhood of wives who want to help their husbands through something difficult support by being there. I felt my heart clench when listening to the King's speech declaring that England was indeed at war with Germany. I found myself whisked back to the childhood of a family friend from my elementary school days (a child during the Blitz) when the air raid sirens sounded and people emptied the streets for public shelters...and Lionel refused shelter, intent on being by Bertie's side to help him hold onto his voice.

I want to study this movie, make notes on what the actors do with their faces, voices, bodies; note the camera angles, which are used to strong effect; set design, how the scenes are blocked. Yeah, storytelling geek and proud of it. Definitely buying this one as soon as it's out on DVD.

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