More on the End of the Year – “The Help” and “The King’s Speech”

We had our standard New Year’s Eve last night. At home, with a good dinner, and two or three movies that we missed during the year.

Our dinner was elegant, but simple – sauteed flounder, celery root puree and braised broccoli rabe (hummus and carrots as an appetizer, and a bottle of Prosecco to drink). Our movies were interrupted by the Capitals/Blue Jackets hockey game – we were pleased to see the Caps come from a 2-0 clear defeat (after two periods) to a 4-2 victory (after three).

Before the game, we watched “The King’s Speech”, last year’s “best picture”. As most readers probably agree, it’s an excellent film – beautifully acted, well directed, easy to follow, and completely enjoyable to watch. My problem, though, is one that I have often with films and plays based on history – they distort the history in the name of artistic license. In and of itself, this may not be a problem; the problem arises because those who see the film think they know the history and pretty soon the film creates the history and the history itself is distorted. I have noted this a number of cases, such as in Theater J’s “The New Jerusalem”, which purports to tell the story of the excommunication trial of Spinoza…….., but doesn’t.

There is a very interesting section on historical accuracy on the Wikipedia article on “The King’s Speech” – I suggest you look at it. You will learn how the timing of Logue’s treatment of the future George VI was compressed and changed, how the familiarity between royalty and commoner was overstated, and so forth. Yes, Edward abdicated and George became king. Yes, George was a stammerer from early childhood. Yes, he was helped, both before and after his coronation, by one Lionel Logue. But the devil is in the details, and the details of the movie are different from the details of history.

As to “The Hope”, my reaction was quite different. I was disappointed in the film, after having looked forward to what I thought was a terrific concept for a movie. I just thought that all of the characters, the whites and the blacks, were so stereotypical, shallow and predictable, as to make the movie less than a credible account of the relationships between white housewives and black maids in the Mississippi of the 1960s. Now, I haven’t read the book (and won’t be reading it), and maybe I’d feel differently if I had read it. For those who are interested in the general subject, I also suggest they read Fannie Cook’s “Mrs. Palmer’s Honey”, published in 1946. It talks of the relationship between the Palmer family in St. Louis and their maid Honey who (although they never thought about it) had a life of her own about which they knew nothing, while she, Honey, knew everything about theirs.

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