(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

Solitary Cinema

movie camera

So last night I found myself sitting in the salubrious surroundings of the Streatham Odeon. On my own.

I have long thought this to be a sensible course of action (the watching films alone bit – not the Streatham Odeon), but I have rarely had the social cajones to do it. I mean, it’s a bit of a statement, isn’t it? “Ticket for one, please. Yes, I am, quite literally, mate-less. What of it?”

I arrived at my seat naively early, and the berths either side of me stayed resolutely empty for a very long time. A stark reminder of my solitude, one might say. But it was a full theatre so eventually my fellow punters had to learn how to scootch along – even if it meant sitting next to the loser slap bang in the middle of the row. “No that seat’s not taken,” I said, through gritted teeth. Twice. Left and Right. After that it was OK. To the casual observer I was merely one of the crowd.

And anyway, the cinema is designed to be enjoyed alone. It is hardly the place for a friendly chat, or a date or a school reunion. Simply whispering “pass the wine gums” to a cherished companion is enough to elicit enraged “shushes!” from strangers, and it’s hard to look cool on a date when you have just been showered with spittle.

And speaking of spittle… The film I chose for this auspicious occasion was The King’s Speech. Partly due, I confess, to the gushing plaudits, but also because it starred Helena Bonham Carter. Who I love. A lot.

The set-up is frighteningly simple. Most of the meaningful action takes place in Logue’s dusty flat in Harley Street with its quiet familiarity and questionable wallpaper. A world away from the palaces and the politicians.

And it is here that Logue begins to peel away the layers of Bertie’s neurosis in a series of nicely-paced vignettes depicting the years before and after the King’s coronation in the wake of the Edward and Mrs. Simpson scandal. Some unconventional vocal exercises here, a bit of potentially treasonable intimate psychological analysis there - Logue is the first commoner to penetrate Bertie’s bubble and the only person able to help him control his crippling speech impediment.

Much of this is down to Firth, who somehow manages to make the King’s disability believable without degenerating into a gurning stereotypical self-important posh bloke. But the star of the show is undoubtedly Rush, face like a gargoyle, who is pitch-perfect as the unqualified quack “doctor” full of unrefined charm and unlikely grace.

The casting people were clearly delighted with their work, but I fear they rather blotted their copybook by hiring Guy Pearce as Bertie’s feckless older brother. There is something a little farcical about the scenes where the monarchy is thrown into turmoil when the rich divorcee Wallis Simpson elopes with Mike off Neighbours.

“Where did he pick up that English accent, Erinsborough?” I scoffed, nudging the person next to me. Then I realised I didn’t know her, and it was all a little awkward. Still – alone or not, go and see The King’s Speech. It’s very good. That is all.

geoffrey rush

In the interests of equality... Rush as Lionel Logue

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