The King’s Speech and an Oscar Flashback
This entry should come out 24 hours before stars open the envelopes containing names on who’s going to get new Oscars for their work in the past year’s films. Colin Firth would get his due for playing King George the VI in The King’s Speech. Other people involved in making the film might also win upset Oscars, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, director Tom Hooper. The Weinsteins will control Hollywood and the Academy and would win best picture since…Chicago.
Yes, I’m hijacking a post that’s supposed to be about The King’s Speech by talking about Chicago, talking about Oscars past instead of present.
Yes, they’re aesthetically different animals. The King’s Speech shows foggy streets, rustic walls of the office of George ‘Bertie’s’ speech instructor, Lionel Logue (Rush) while Chicago‘s all about ostentatious visuals, spotlights, shiny suits and shimmering dresses dancing around big neon signs of Roxie’s (Renee Zellweger) name. We almost forget that the latter is set during the same decade as the first sections of the former. But little details remind us, the Duchess Elizabeth (Bonham-Carter) wearing modest versions of the 1920′s dresses that would look like flapper girl fashions if it weren’t for her stout frame, fur coats, or Bonham Carter’s air, fitting the title Your Majesty, her first subtle and underrated performance in years.
I’m getting distracted here. Both characters are from different ends of the social spectrum, their gilded or steel cages nonetheless are hurdles to be transcended, Bertie coming to therms with the necessity to befriend a commoner to be relatable to other commoners, Roxie wanting to be on top of the Chicago vaudeville food chain.
Both Bertie and Roxie are kindred spirits, outcasts, waiting in the fringes for their chance to be heard by the public. There’s anger within both characters who haven’t always been allowed to express themselves and getting those chances well within their adult lives. Bertie lashes out a few times towards Lionel, the first when both are introduced to each other, Lionel not getting to the point as Bertie just wants to be cured and quickly. The last heated conversation between the two is when Lionel sits on St. George’s chair, the latest on many time Lionel eggs Bertie on to let the latter finally say what he feels in a clearer way.
As Bertie has had many speech therapists, one of whom putting him in physical strain, Roxie starts connecting with wrong people to achieve fame. There’s Fred Casely (Dominic West) and a gangster who likes to show her around. She finds an ally in star lawyer Billy Flynn, who understandably treats her like a puppet since her coarseness gets in her own way. Unlike The King’s Speech, there’s a more blatant gender element in Chicago, as a meek character Roxie’s frustrations in finding fame also has roots in her anger with men. In a scene leading up to her number ‘Roxie,’ she performs a comic routine about all these men, her imagined audience laughing with her, finally understanding her.
I enjoyed both movies in different ways. The King’s Speech has a surprisingly touching speech, a character study of a man whose sense of humour and bravery comes out beautifully. Chicago just exhilarates, the energy engendered by the actors’ insanely brisk performances matching and even mythologizing a reckless era. I admit that just like my ambivalence to the latter film, my love for the former is dwindling with the negative talk about it. Then I find delight in knowing that another friend of mine has just seen and loves it. But I’d rather have it win than half of the other movies nominated.