Friday, December 10, 2010

For the Weekend: Nothing but Firth

After seeing "The King's Speech" last week, I have been in the mood to watch a lot of Colin Firth films (and who could blame me).  So I thought I'd write about all those wonderful, sappy, romantic films that make every girl in the world swoon over Firth.  (Guys, feel free to skip today's post.  This one's for all the girls.)

First off, if you live in one of the selected cities playing "The King's Speech" currently, I highly, highly recommend going to see it.  It stars Firth as Britain's King George VI (Queen Elizabeth II's father) who tries desperately to overcome a horrible speech impediment, especially when the UK declares war against Germany.  Helena Bonham-Carter plays his wife and Geoffrey Rush plays the speech therapist who finally helps him succeed.  It's an amazing true story, and for all you anglophiles out there like me, it's a wonderful look into Britain's history.  "Speech" has been getting a lot of Oscar buzz too, so you're sure to hear more about it then.  Firth is amazing and surely will garner his second nomination (following last year's for "A Single Man").

Of course, Firth would not be whom we crave now if it wasn't for the BBC miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" back in 1995.  Based on the classic novel by Jane Austen, this highly acclaimed series brought new romanticism to one of the greatest love stories ever written (my favorite, for sure).  Firth is (and forever will be for) the enigmatic Mr. Darcy, the dream man of every hopeless romantic.  Jennifer Ehle stars as the story's heroine Elizabeth Bennett, a 19th century young woman with four sisters and no inheritance to her name.  The story (which I'm sure you all know) follows her and her unmarried sisters as they deal with the pressures and rules of society.  This series made Firth an international heartthrob from mainly one scene, the infamous lake scene.  Firth goes swimming in a lake, only to later be seen walking to his house dripping wet.  Around the corner though, he bumps into Elizabeth Bennett unexpectedly, and a delightful, heart-pumping tension sparks between them.  This scene is now considered "one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history."  Firth originally wasn't interested in playing Darcy.  However, producer Sue Birtwistle persistently coaxed Firth until he finally accepted the role, one that has stayed with him ever since.

The most notable continuation of that role is in "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001).  Helen Fielding, the author of the novel of the same name, came up with her story after watching the BBC "Pride and Prejudice."  Renee Zellweger stars as Bridget, a 32-year-old single woman in London.  The story chronicles one year of her life as she keeps track of it in her diary.  Hugh Grant costars as Daniel Cleaver, her caddish publishing boss, a Mr-Wickham-like character, and Firth plays, you guessed it, Mr. Darcy!  Mr. Mark Darcy, a barrister (aka lawyer), was based on both Mr. Darcy from the book "Pride and Prejudice" and Colin Firth himself.  (Fielding even references Firth's Darcy in her book.)  This little inside joke of casting Firth as Mark Darcy proved a winner, because again he made every girl swoon like crazy (even me and my friends this week after watching it for the 500th time).  Also, it includes the best, funniest fight scene ever, between Firth and Grant, who have had a little off-screen battle for roles throughout their careers.

And finally, the last swooner for today, "Love Actually."  This 2003 film, written and directed by Richard Curtis (co-writer of "Bridget Jones's Diary"), follows ten individual yet interweaving love stories in the five weeks leading up to Christmas (see, I still got some Christmas in there!).  It stars a cavalcade of talent including Firth (of course), Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant again, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, and Keira Knightley.  Firth plays Jamie Bennett (another "Pride and Prejudice" homage), a writer who runs off to France after he finds his girlfriend cheating on him with his brother.  In one of his scenes, he jumps into a lake with his clothes on, something Curtis jokingly mentions he now has to write into every movie he does with Firth because of "Pride and Prejudice."  The lake Firth dove into for "Love Actually" was less than a couple of feet deep though, so he is, in reality, crawling along the bottom to make it appear like he is swimming clumsily around.  He also was bitten on the elbow by mosquitoes, causing it to swell up to the size of an avocado by the next day.

So, girls, go out and swoon this weekend with Colin Firth.  All the above can be found on DVD, except for "The King's Speech" which is in theaters in selected cities now.  Have a wonderful weekend!  Be back Monday with another Christmas classic.

(Post-tidbit:  Richard Curtis has written many of the romantic comedies we love, including "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994) and "Notting Hill" (1999).  The Christmas adaptation of the "Love is All Around" in "Love Actually" is a reference to the original song in "Four Weddings."  After "Four Weddings" was released, "Love is All Around" stayed at the top of the charts for 15 weeks straight.  Curtis thought it would then be funny to bombard the audience with the song all over again.)

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