Friday, January 14, 2011

Double Feature: Black Swan & The King's Speech

Today I'm going to talk about a couple of fabulous films I've seen lately: Black Swan and The King's Speech. I went and saw both of them with my future sister-in-law (aka Matt's sister) while she was back in KC on winter break from law school.

Black Swan
Of course, being vaguely obsessed with ballerinas since I was a kid (lately I decided it's because ballerinas are the closest I feel humans can come to being fairies), I was totally psyched to see previews and costume designs for this movie on some of the blogs I follow. I was not a bit disappointed.

Black Swan
is so elegantly disturbing, blending the ordinary everyday life events of this dancer with her terrifying premonitions and nightmares. To me, it was like a short story in that much of the character motivations are not made explicit, but the viewer is presented this tiny segment of a life and a personality to puzzle over.

I was interested to observe a fair amount of "shaky cam" footage used throughout the film. It was often as if the camera was looking right over the main character's shoulder, which added a greater sense of danger and threat, in my opinion.

I liked that the film managed to address so many issues that females in our society face: body image problems, eating disorders, parental demands, fierce infighting with other females over perceived and actual slights, and a culturally-encouraged obsessed with perfection and success.

The ending surprised me, (and I was thinking that it should have made me dislike the movie, cause I'm not one for what my Creative Writing thesis adviser called "tricks" that cheat the audience) but for whatever reason, it satisfied me in a strange way. Maybe because it was such beautiful imagery? I don't know. But I know I liked it.

Also, I thought this was Natalie Portman's best role and performance since she played Mathilda in Leon: The Professional.

The King's Speech
I didn't hear anything about this before I went to see it, except the tiny bit Melissa told me: a king, played by Colin Firth, needs speech therapy. Colin Firth + Historical Drama = Yes, please!!

This was also a very beautiful film. Certain ways that shots were set up, especially in the beginning sequence, reminded me of a The Royal Tennenbaums, which is one of my favorite movies.

Set before WW2 broke out, The King's Speech tells the story of the Duke of York, second son of George V, who stutters. His wife finds him an unusual speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who requires the Duke of York to be on a first-name basis with him, and to do exercises that His Highness finds completely humiliating. (Those part reminded me of My Fair Lady.)

It was a pleasure to watch consumate actors, Firth and Rush play opposite each other. Both got completely into the characters and the true drama of the story is the relationship their characters build in the learning process. I was a little concerned that Helena Bonham Carter would totally overact the way I feel she has been in her roles lately, but she also acted beautifully and very subtly at some points. I was quite impressed.

The film also showed the difficulties that the Royal Family had in adapting to new technologies (like the radio) that required them to be present for the country in ways that were just not even thought of before. Additionally, it showed how lonely and isolating such a position of authority can be for those expected to hold themselves above the common man and woman.

And, I know for me, it gave personality and interest to a period of time in the monarchy that I'd only known before as "that time when the one guy abdicated for his woman so his brother took over instead." I had no clue what incredible internal resistance and fear the man who became George the VI had to overcome to take his place as king.

But, ultimately, the story is about the incredible connection that can be forged when one human being tirelessly works to teach another human being and give them confidence for life. It was lovely to watch and very heart-warming.

Related posts:
Movie Review: Winter's Bone
Action Movies: You're Doing It Wrong

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1 comment:

Joe Pontillo said...

Great reviews. I loved Black Swan, and I'm glad you responded positively to it too. I still haven't seen The King's Speech yet, but you're continuing a trend of NOBODY being disappointed by it. It seems like the type of movie that would end up boring a lot of people who think they have to see it, like The Hours. But not only does everybody who sees it like it, a lot of people are seeing it. It's all very surprising.