I think I liked THE KING'S SPEECH more than my contemporaries here at AICN. It's not my favorite of the Best Picture nominees, and if it were up to me I'd drop it if it meant Mark Romanek's NEVER LET ME GO got a slot. But for a few weeks now it seems the Weinstein Company has been wanting to re-release this film to get more bang for its buck by re-cutting it for a PG-13 rating, thus ensuring more box office. The R rating is due to one scene in particular where Colin Firth's King George VI swears like a sailor to get over his stammering, as he's being encouraged by Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue. There's no sexual connotation to it at all, and it's a very funny and effective scene. But too many F-bombs, in this scene and spread throughout the film, pushed the film to the R rating it received from the MPAA.
Well, it appears the Weinstein Company successfully lobbied the MPAA to allow them to release a PG-13 cut of the film without having to wait the statutory 90 days, and so the studio will begin withdrawing the R version from theaters to make way for the PG-13 version - "to avoid public confusion," according to the MPAA. As it seems there's a real possibility that THE KING'S SPEECH will do very well at the Oscars Sunday night, it's difficult to see the reasoning behind this other than simple greed. The film has already done quite well, with over $100 million in domestic money alone, with an additional $130 million in international box office take. At this point, other than the bump that the Oscars seem to give after the ceremony, who was going to see this film who hasn't seen it already?
I understand that the Weinstein Company would want to maximize their profits, and THE KING'S SPEECH is a good movie. It may seem like it's just one scene in the film, so what's the big deal? But when I saw the film with an audience, that scene got a terrific response, and I'd hate to see that response lessened. It's not a scene, in my opinion, that any kid couldn't handle. It's real and true and genuinely funny, and sure, the language is rough but that's the point. I'm certain anyone who has speech issues could relate to it and enjoy it for what it was. I'd have no problem showing it to my daughter, if she was interested in seeing it.
That's the thing - the subject matter wasn't going to bring the kids in of their own accord anyway. They'd likely be dragged in by their parents. How many teens out there on a Friday night were going to see THE KING'S SPEECH? They'd sooner see something they'd be interested in, even if the film wasn't very good, because THE KING'S SPEECH already has the stigma of being a homeworky type of film. So what's the benefit here, other than the potential of profits? It's a complete money grab, and there's no artistic reasoning behind it.
I like Tom Hooper as a director. I thought that JOHN ADAMS was a wonderful miniseries and he directed the hell out of it with the budget he got, and got great performances out of everyone involved. But what kind of director allows their film to be recut just to get a PG-13? The scene they're going to cut or re-dub as the case may be is a fairly essential scene in the film - it helps George come to grips with his affliction, his repressed psyche, and it helps him open up to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). It's integral. And by doing this, the Weinstein Company is taking all the punch out of the scene. If I were Hooper I'd be up in arms about this, but so far we've heard nothing from his corner. Perhaps he doesn't want to rock the boat too much considering the Oscars are Sunday night. No matter what the Weinstein Company might say, this is an artistic decision and should have been left up to the director. If this was his decision, well, that's definitely going to affect my opinion of his work from this point. There's ways of pleasing the audience without placating them through scenes that might be uncomfortable for them, even a scene that's as innocuous as this one in the scheme of things.
As far as I understand, THE KING'S SPEECH version that's out there this weekend is the R version, but it won't be for long. According to the MPAA the R version would have to be removed from theaters if the Weinstein Company wants to release this edited version, so as not to cause confusion with movie patrons. And we all know how this will end up - two different cuts on DVD and Blu-Ray, and I'm sure the Weinstein Company can figure out how to get the most money for those releases. It's just a shame that this is happening, over one scene in a film with too many swear words for virgin ears. I guess the film should have ended with Val Kilmer apologizing to the audience a la KISS KISS BANG BANG - "Sorry we said fuck so much."