REVIEW: THE KING’S SPEECH

CAST

Colin Firth (Love Actually)
Helena Bonham Carter (Alice In Wonderland)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Geoffrey Rush (Quills)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Claire Bloom (The Haunting)
Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd)
Robert Portal (The Iron Lady)
Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, stammers through his speech closing the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium. The Duke has given up hope of a cure, but his wife Elizabeth persuades him to see Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist living in London. During their first session, Logue insists on being called Lionel by his patient and on breaching royal etiquette by calling the Prince “Bertie”, a name used only by his family. When the Duke decides Logue’s treatment is unsuitable, Logue bets him that he can recite Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy without trouble and distracts him by playing music through headphones while recording his performance on an acetate record. Prince Albert leaves in anger but Logue offers him the recording as a keepsake.

After King George V makes his 1934 Christmas radio address, he explains to his son the importance of broadcasting to a modern monarchy and demands that Albert train himself, starting with a reading of his father’s speech. His attempt to do so is a failure. Later, the Duke plays Logue’s recording and hears himself reciting unhesitatingly. He therefore returns to Logue, where he and his wife both insist that Logue focus only on physical exercises, not therapy. Logue teaches his patient muscle relaxation and breath control but continues to probe gently and persistently at the psychological roots of the stutter. Albert eventually reveals some of the pressures of his childhood and the two men start to become friends. With George V’s death in 1936, his eldest son David ascends the throne as King Edward VIII, but causes a constitutional crisis with his determination to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée who is still legally married to her second husband. It is pointed out that Edward, as head of the Church of England, cannot marry her, even if she receives her second divorce, because both her previous husbands are alive.
At his next session, Albert expresses his frustration that while his speech has improved when talking to most people, he still stammers when talking to his own brother and reveals the extent of Edward VIII’s folly with Simpson. When Logue insists that Albert could be a good king instead, the latter labels such a suggestion as treason and dismisses Logue. When King Edward decides to abdicate in order to marry Simpson, Albert reluctantly succeeds as King George VI. The new king and queen visit Logue to make up the quarrel, startling Mrs. Logue, who was unaware that the new King had been her husband’s patient.
During preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, George learns that Logue has no formal qualifications. When confronted, Logue explains how he was asked to help shell-shocked Australian soldiers returning from The Great War. Since George remains unconvinced of his own fitness for the throne, Logue sits in King Edward’s Chair and dismisses the underlying Stone of Scone as a trifle. Goaded by Logue’s seeming disrespect, the King surprises himself with his own sudden burst of outraged eloquence and allows Logue to rehearse him for the ceremony.
Upon Britain’s declaration of war with Nazi Germany in 1939, King George summons Logue to Buckingham Palace to prepare for his upcoming radio address to Britain and the Empire. Knowing the challenge that lies before him, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain are present to offer support. George and Logue are then left in the broadcasting room. He delivers his speech with Logue conducting him, but by end is speaking freely. Preparing to leave the room for the congratulations of those present in the palace, Logue mentions to the King that he still had difficulty enunciating ‘w’ and the King jokes back, “I had to leave something in or no one would have believed it was me”.  After the King and his family step onto the balcony of the palace and are applauded by the crowd, a title card explains that Logue was always present at King George VI’s speeches during the war and that they remained friends for the rest of their lives.
I enjoyed watching this more than I thought I would. It’s respectful but truthful in its content and subject and gives an interesting insight into the miseries of stuttering. On the other hand the pace of the film was never impaired by what could have been unexciting content. It was lively and maintained interest throughout.

 

 

REVIEW: THE IDES OF MARCH

CAST

George Clooney (Out of Sight)
Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen)
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)
Jeffrey Wright (Source Code)
Max Minghella (The Internship)
Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty)
Gregory Itzin (Adaptation.)
Michael Mantell (Secretary)

MV5BMTkxMTU3MTY4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTMwODQ3Ng@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Clooney’s story  is set during the week of the Ohio primary race for the Democratic presidential candidate, which has basically come down to a two-man contest between Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell), whose campaign is run by shrewd Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), and Governor Morris (Clooney). Morris’s campaign manager is longtime operative Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman); Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is his number two man. The decisive race in Ohio is close, which much riding on who will get the endorsement (and delegates) of Senator Franklin Thompson, who is angling for a cabinet post. In the midst of all of this, Stephen begins a campaign trail romance with intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who turns out to be the daughter of the head of the DNC. And then things get complicated.The film’s early scenes are its best. The script talks plain and names names, throwing around smart political talk; Meyers and Duffy’s conversation about learning to how to play the game from Republicans is sharp and lucid, while Morris’s comments from the stump about taxation and “socialism” (as well as Zara’s crack that the Republicans “can’t find a nominee that’s not a world-class fuck-up”) are tartly timely. Though some of the details of the campaign stretch credibility (no candidate could proclaim himself as indifferent to religion as Morris does and actually survive a primary for either party), its portrayl of primary politics and their backstage byplay feel authentic;  Gosling and Wood’s two-scenes have a nice zing to them (reminsicent of the screwball comedy homages in his underrated Leatherheads), Clooney’s offhand sense of humor is disarming–see Hoffman and Gosling’s offstage compliments after the first debate, or the business with Wood and Gosling’s tie the morning after their first date–and he draws out some nice directorial flourishes, like the way he handles a late scene with Hoffman going into an SUV.Every member of the cast is utterly convincing. Clooney’s smooth persona has rarely been better employed–both his playful charm and his steely directness. Gosling gets a good, hard arc to play, and he wails on it; the speed which his idealism loop-the-loops into cynicism is dazzling . It’s a memorable turn, even if he calls up a wide-eyed, manic look that will make Drive viewers fear he’s about to break out the hammer. Hoffman gets a showcase scene in his hotel room, a footlights monologue that betrays the film’s stage roots, but he’s so compelling you don’t notice the scaffolding; the way he pivots from cool contempt to utter rage is what good screen acting is all about. Wright is underused, but Clooney juggles the rest of the ensemble cast with ease.

REVIEW: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

CAST

Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
Emily Blunt (Looper)
Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War)
John Slattery (Iron Man 2)
Michael Kelly (Man of Steel)
Terence Stamp (Superman 2)
Donnie Keshawarz (Lost)
Anthony Ruivivar (Scream: The Series)
Jennifer Ehle (The Blacklist)
Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall)

It is the directorial debut of George Nolfi, whose previous credits include the screenplay for the much-derided (though not by this writer) Ocean’s Twelve and the third Boune movie (he co-wrote with series regular Tony Gilroy). His screenplay here is based on the Philip K. Dick story “Adjustment Team,” and as with the best of Dick’s work, it is science fiction in the best sense–keenly interested in ideas rather than ray guns. Nolfi introduces us to New York congressman David Norris (Matt Damon) in an opening montage deliberately played like a campaign ad; the smiling, handsome young Brooklyn politico is seemingly poised to float into a New York Senate seat. But Norris has a bit of an impulse problem, and a sketchy past that comes back to haunt him in the campaign’s eleventh hour. He ends up losing the race, but the night isn’t a total bust: as he’s preparing his concession speech, he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), a beautiful dancer, and the spark is immediate. She disappears, but he is inspired to give a no-nonsense takedown of politics-as-usal that becomes a viral sensation and immediately resurrects his political possibilities.But this is where it gets complicated. Due to circumstances too complicated to summarize here, Norris becomes aware that he is under the surveillance of a team of “adjusters”–dark-suited men in fedoras who occasionally step in to ensure that the lives of everyday people progress according to “the plan,” as set forth by “the chairman.” Are they angels? Is the chairman God? Perhaps; the movie is too interesting to do more than hint. What is certain is that David and Elise meeting again and falling in love is not part of “the plan,” and if David bucks the plan, there will be consequences–particularly once Thompson (aka “The Hammer”) takes over the case, and since Thompson is played by Terence Stamp, we’re inclined to believe he means business. On some level, this could all be seen as fundamentally silly. The dialogue of the adjusters, who are played as varying levels of middle managers (at one point, John Slattery’s Richardson shrugs “It’s above my pay grade”), is full of talk of getting “a briefcase” for “a reset” or even “a full recalibration,” since the “ripple effects” are too great; the adjusters also have the ability to use regular doors to portal from one part of New York to another, as long as they have on their magic fedoras. None of this should work, but it does, primarily because Nolfi basically takes the story seriously, but still maintains a sense of humor that punctures the deadly solemnity that so often sinks this kind of picture.Much of that humor is found in the terrific relationship between Damon and Blunt, who couldn’t be better together; their chemistry is wickedly good, as it must be for the story to work, and when he says “holy shit” at the end of their first scene, you can’t imagine a more appropriate response. Blunt is a perpetually underrated actress, but she puts across exactly the right combination of romantic longing and bad-girl recklessness; you don’t question for a moment that he would spend three years hoping to find her again.The supporting cast is aces (the wonderful Anthony Mackie and always-welcome David Kelly provide able support), and Nolfi’s direction is brisk, confident, and effective. He does so many things so well, all at the same time, that the film is a minor miracle (if you’ll pardon the expression)–it asks the eternal questions of free will within religious dogma, creates a genuine rooting interest in a romantic coupling, and includes an electrifying chase sequence where you actually care about the outcome. The fact that all of this not only works, but works so well, is downright thrilling