The King’s Speech vs. The Social Network

    So I saw The King’s Speech last night.  I have now seen 9 of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture.  I am officially declaring that I think The Social Network was the Best Picture of 2010.  The King’s Speech is a very good movie and Colin Firth is totally deserving of his win for Best Actor.  Geoffrey Rush deserved to be nominated.  I could even maybe be persuaded to buy the argument that Tom Hooper should have won Best Director over Fincher (provided you make the argument that The Social Network was as much about Sorkin’s screenplay as it was Fincher’s direction). 
    But while The King’s Speech is a very good movie and I can understand it being nominated, I don’t think it should have won.  Outside of Firth’s and Rush’s characters, most of the others are not very well developed and rather one-note caricatures.  From what I’ve read too, there are some glaring historical inaccuracies and glossing over of events (the King’s strong opinion about Hitler, for the former; the vague looming presence of Hitler on the horizon for the latter). 
    While inaccuracy in and of itself is not necessarily a deal breaker, to read about the actual history and how some of the characters actually interacted seems like it would lend itself to an even better, more fully developed story.  Churchill actually was a staunch supporter of King’s brother before he abdicated.  The King was more divided about Hitler and leaned toward appeasement early on instead of always being fiercely opposed to him.  He gave Neville Chamberlain a huge gesture of approval when Chamberlain returned from negotiating with Hitler. 
    And while the friendship that develops between the two characters is very good, at one point Rush’s character almost becomes Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.  And there are some contrivances of story that seem to pop up to test the relationship at just the right moments.
    It confirmed what I most feared about the movie; not that it won because it was such a great picture but it won as much because it was Oscar bait as it was a great movie.  It’s the type of story that the Academy has always gobbled up and cherished.  I’m convinced that while Colin Firth’s performance will remain an impressive one that is remembered fondly, I definitely feel like the movie will fade more into the background and join the mosaic of other biopics that have received high acclaim over the years.  Outside of the performance of Firth, there is not much that distinguishes it from others.
    Not so with The Social Network.  The Social Network leaves an impression.  I remember leaving the theater wanting to delete my Facebook account instead of contributing to the success of the jerk that Jesse Eisenberg portrayed onscreen.  And that stayed with me.  Because the degree of difficulty with The Social Network was so much greater and they managed to pull it off and make it a movie that mattered.  I remember reading online that they were making a “Facebook movie” and laughing thinking it was going to be awful, they’re trying to capitalize on the hot trend du jour, and it will be a joke.  Then I was intrigued to find out that David Fincher was directing it.  And that Aaron Sorkin was scripting it.  And then the glowing reviews came out.  The movie managed to make a multi-million dollar lawsuit compelling as well as giving a suitable context to something that is happening in the present.  The King’s Speech had the advantage of years of perspective.  The Social Network had the double-edged sword of having to make a movie based on real-life characters who weren’t giving their input into the movie.  It did not have to worry about appeasing the egos of the people they were portraying on screen.
    Again, I don’t think the King’s Speech is a poor movie.  It is deserving of high praise and critical acclaim and Colin Firth’s performance ranks up there in terms of the best acting jobs of the last 10 years (though Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood is still the best).  I just don’t think it is deserving of the highest praise.  And I think, as an overall film, The Social Network will resonate more as the years pass while The King’s Speech will settle into the Dances With Wolves/Ordinary People/Forrest Gump/Shakespeare in Love category.  But at least it’s not Crash.


One thought on “The King’s Speech vs. The Social Network

  1. kevinjfisher says:

    good to see this. I admit that King’s Speech was well done and acted, but it never grabbed me. Good film for sure, but Social Network is one we’ll talk about for years.

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