The story of King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.
Helena Bonham Carter
Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980.
An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Richard E. Grant
A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.
A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker's daughter. The decision changes their lives for ever.
Outside a movie premiere, enthusiastic fan Peppy Miller literally bumps into the swashbuckling hero of the silent film, George Valentin. The star reacts graciously and Peppy plants a kiss on his cheek as they are surrounded by photographers. The headlines demand: "Who's That Girl?" and Peppy is inspired to audition for a dancing bit-part at the studio. However as Peppy slowly rises through the industry, the introduction of talking-pictures turns Valentin's world upside-down. Written by
Peppy's house in the film is the house which Mary Pickford lived in before marrying Douglas Fairbanks and moving into the legendary Pickfair mansion (which was torn down in the late 1980s), and the bed where George Valentin wakes up is Mary Pickford's bed. In the briefly-visible dining room, you can also see an English Sheridan dining room table-and-chair set that belonged to Pickford, and the lace tablecloth also belonged to her. See more »
When Peppy bumps into George Valentin, she had dropped her small black bag and picked it up. The bag disappears from her hands in the next scene and then appears again. See more »
If you can get your Weinstein-manipulated expectations WAY down from "Oscar" to "cute gimmick," then this cinematic truffle could very well satisfy especially if you've ever seen and enjoyed a theatrical screening of a silent movie. There's a faithfulness to the spirit and techniques of the silent era that's undeniably impressive and will delight those few audience members (myself being one) who have enough familiarity with silent cinema to appreciate it.
But is it a movie that you should be running out to see because omnipresent web advertising says that it's an Oscar lock? Negative. If you DON'T have the required familiarity with the silent era, the charms and nostalgia evoked by the film will be completely lost on you, and you'll be far more dependent on the thin and unoriginal storyline for entertainment. (Note: the story borrows shamelessly from both SINGING IN THE RAIN and A STAR IS BORN and is fully consistent with the era's cornball aesthetic.) And even if you ARE familiar with silent cinema, "Oscar worthy" is going to seem like a stretch. Either way, if you really want to enjoy this movie, lowering your expectations from their current hype-elevated levels is imperative. (Anybody notice how remarkably similar Weinstein's overhype campaign for this film is to the one he successfully ran for Roberto Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL years ago? Anybody watched that movie since?)
I first saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival with a full house at the spacious Elgin Theater, and it received a favorable albeit muted response from the audience. (By comparison, I saw AMELIE at the same theater ten years prior, and it received a ten-minute standing ovation at the end.) If I'd known at the time that I'd just seen the year's BEST movie, I would have been depressed over what this portended for the year-end releases.
You simply can't help being aware of the limitations of silent movies -- and thankful for the quantum improvement that the introduction of sound made -- no matter how deft the filmmakers are in recreating the look and feel of a bygone era. It's a movie-making era that you're glad IS bygone -- as evidenced by the inability of any of the gushing critics to cite a single color talkie favorite that they wish had been a b&w silent instead.
I say "A" for cinematic conceit and "C" for entertainment value ("B+" for silent film buffs).
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