Tag Archives: Colin Firth

From Hilarity to Heartbreak and Back Again: some Thoughts on Seeing “Kingsman: the Golden Circle”

When news broke that “Kingsman: the Secret Service” (2015) would be followed by a sequel, my initial reaction was one of skepticism. I only became a convert after the trailer dropped at this year’s comic Con, and I approached the film much as I approach any film that falls somewhere on the parody spectrum—fully intending to embrace it for what it was without allowing my hyper-critical eye to interfere with my enjoyment. When I finally saw “Kingsman: the Golden Circle” on opening weekend, I didn’t expect my emotions to run the gamut from hysterical laughter to heartbroken in what amounted to 2 hours and 20 minutes of emotional whiplash.

In short, after the Kingsman headquarters are destroyed, the agents journey to America and team up with their “American cousins,” the Statesman, and work to bring down a drug cartel known as the Golden Circle.

*****WARNING!***** Some of what follows is shamelessly spoiler-y. I make no further apologies. Read on at your own risk.

Given that the first film left me reeling, I recognize in hindsight that I should have braced myself for the roller-coaster. Even after having weeks to reflect and process, my emotions are still spinning madly in multiple directions, so what follows amounts less to a review than a list-style breakdown of the key takeaways for me.

Happy-Making Things

Eggsy- When I reviewed “Kingsman: the Secret Service,” I observed that Taron Egerton held his own remarkably well amongst the likes of seasoned actors including Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, and Colin Firth. In “The Golden Circle,” Egerton owns the screen. Now adorably awkward, now authoritative, Egerton has matured both as a Kingsman agent and as an actor. Committed to putting his training into practice and living out Harry’s legacy (more on that later), he still maintains a certain tenderness beneath his toughened armor that made us first fall in love with and cheer for Eggsy.

Merlin- Mark Strong brings immense depth to this character. Alternating between tough and tender, he’s clearly shouldered the responsibility of filling (or at least trying to fill) the void that losing Harry has left in Eggsy’s life. Beneath the repeated remonstrances to “remember your training,” Merlin’s respect for Eggsy not as a mentee, but as a fellow agent shows itself markedly when the pair find themselves the only survivors after their headquarters are destroyed and together they must bear the grief of their lost colleagues as they continue the work they’ve set out to do. Not to mention (SPOILER ALERT!) you can’t help but admire a man who can muster the strength to belt out a chorus of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in his final moments as he stands on a landmine.

Harry Hart- Once again, Colin Firth delivers an exquisitely nuanced performance. With seamless precision, he balances tender timidity with—there’s just no other way to put this—ass-kicking authority. The scene in which Eggsy uses the puppy to trigger Harry’s memories demonstrates this balancing act most effectively; in the instant that Harry regains his awareness, we can almost hear a click in Firth’s brain as he activates that switch. Can I just say here that their embrace, with Harry cradling the puppy in one arm, is pure hurt/comfort fanfiction gold? My heart crumbled like a warm brownie straight from the oven.

Admittedly, the idea of resurrecting Hart by injecting fluid into the brain after covering the eyes with something that resembles the plastic wrap in my kitchen cupboard stretches the boundaries of plausibility, but Matthew Vaughn never promised us plausible. On the contrary, from the moment we learned that Harry Hart would be returning from the dead, Vaughn was basically saying “check plausible at the door. Here are your suspension of disbelief glasses. Have fun.”

Poppy- Julianne Moore makes a delightfully devilish villain, and this is quite possibly one of my favorite of her performances. Saccharine sweet and smooth-talking, she utilizes every moment of her screen time to hypnotize her audience. If she can convince one of her henchman to swallow a bite of a meat pattie consisting of one of his own dismembered limbs, the rest of us don’t stand a chance. Go home, villains of the world. Poppy’s got this one covered.

Critical Concerns

Storyline- admittedly, the plot is all over the map. from Eggsy’s relationship with Princess Tilde (Hanna Ahlstrom), to Harry’s Amnesia, to the war on drugs, we never quite know where to look. Despite this fact, however, the film still works, because what it might lack in plot continuity, it more than makes up for with character dynamics. These characters—and the actors who portray them—have established such clearly authentic bonds of friendship that we want to spend more time with them in whichever wacky direction they choose to take us. Most of those adventures predictably involve some heavily alcohol-lubricated, testosterone-charged male bonding, but when you give me Colin Firth cuddling a puppy, my iron feminist resolve will immediately crack. I’m sorry, but you can’t read the words Colin Firth and puppy in the same sentence and not feel, just for a moment, that nothing bad will ever happen to the planet ever again. Don’t judge. On that note, though…

Ginger Ale- In an otherwise scathing review, the New York times pointed out, not altogether unfairly, that The Golden Circle is a man’s film, and women have to get behind. Unfortunately, this proves largely true in the case of Halle Berry’s brilliantly-played Ginger Ale. Intelligent and capable, she can clearly hold her own amongst the male agents and can handle far more than tech support, yet she constantly gets passed over for field work when Agent Whiskey (excellently portrayed by Pedro Pascal) votes her down. In fairness, however, “The golden Circle” manages a challenging balancing act in a film that’s part-parody, part-tribute to the spy genre—a genre that has a notorious reputation for being less than kind to female characters. Of course, Ginger Ale does get her moment of glory in the end, and while I’d have liked to see her character developed further, her promotion gestures toward that potential development since whispers have already begun circulating about rounding the franchise out into a trilogy.

“The Golden Circle” also boasts performances from Jeff Bridges (Champ), Channing Tatum (Tequila), and a hilariously outlandish appearance by the one and only Elton John. If audiences continue to respond well to the film, the likelihood of that third sequel materializing will increase. It finished first in the box-office on opening weekend, grossing $39 million in the U.S and $100 million worldwide, and its earnings have since nearly doubled its $104 million production budget. Despite mixed critical reviews, fans have clearly not been disappointed, and I for one am already on board with Eggsy, Harry, and the rest of the gang in whatever adventures await them.

Of Dogs and Disasters and Death-Defying Actors

Happy Labor Day! I’ve spent my day creating PowerPoint presentations on comma splices and misplaced modifiers, which was labor-intensive and not at all happy. I’d like a refund, please.

School is back in session, so if we’re having coffee this week, I should tell you that I’ve swapped my usual two cups a day for a caffeine IV drip…I wish.

Last weekend everyone on the internet was celebrating National dog day. Somehow, that never registered on my radar, which probably makes me a terrible person. When you have a service animal though, every day is dog day. My dog is probably the reason why my blood pressure is still hovering somewhere in the range that we can medically call normal. Petting a dog for just a few minutes can apparently send calming signals to the brain, which is why I’ve made an executive decision to remove my dog’s harness when I’m in my office between classes. Students come to repair the cracks and comma splices in their essays, they get a five-minute shot of brain therapy, and my dog gets a free massage. 3 for the price of one.

Unfortunately, there are exceptions to the rule. Some people just don’t like dogs, and some take being afraid of them to a disturbing level. I was reminded of this on my morning commute a few days ago when I attempted to board the paratransit van that arrived to take me to work only to have another passenger scream in my face because he was afraid of dogs. I sympathize, but when I’m late for work, this really isn’t my problem. Get over it or go home. The driver insisted that I couldn’t board the vehicle because he needed to accommodate the other client. Last time I checked, fear of dogs is not a legal disability, so I got to stand in the rain and explain why my rights were being violated. Did I mention I was undercaffeinated? My service animal was documented; the other client’s fear of animals wasn’t, so, again, not my problem.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how screaming in my face before I’ve had at least two cups of coffee won’t end well for you, but if you were the sort of person who’d scream in my face before I’ve had coffee, I’d be having coffee with someone else. Did I also mention that my apparently ferocious, I-will-eat-your-face guide dog was, throughout this entire confrontation, cowering behind me with his tail between his legs, doing a pretty accurate impression of not eating someone’s face?

In other news that falls in the category of happy-making things, if we were having coffee—or vodka—you’d get to listen to me squeal about the fact that we’re less than a month away from the release of Kingsman: the Golden Circle. At some point in the conversation, you’d wonder why and how this will work when we all saw Samuel L Jackson shoot Colin Firth in the head at point-blank range in the first film. My only response is that Hollywood knows when it’s made a mistake, and clearly a Firthless franchise would leave a gaping hole in the universe too large to contemplate. Now, however, we all get to sleep soundly at night because Colin Firth is decidedly not dead and is single-handedly going to save the world while sporting a cowboy hat and an eyepatch.

I don’t think Colin Firth is actually ever going to die. If he does, the world will just unite and synchronously chant his name until he resurrects like the 10th Doctor in “The Last of the time Lords.” I know, I know, but a girl can dream, right?

What Do Your Google Alerts Say About You?

I smell cookies. How is a person supposed to write while smelling cookies? I think one of my neighbors is baking, and I’d venture a guess that they have no intention of sharing, even though I’m sure not sharing cookies with anyone within smelling distance of said cookies violates the Geneva Convention…or the International Declaration of Human Rights…or something.

Colorful bright icing cookies with sprinkles and candy.
Colorful bright icing cookies with sprinkles and candy.

Not my neighbor’s cookies, obviously, but if I’m going to pretend I have cookies, they might as well be pretty cookies.

So we’d talk about that if we were having coffee. Then I’d spend the next ten minutes worrying about the fact that I might have inadvertently turned my parents into Netflix addicts.
“There’s actually a lot of stuff on here,” Dad said after I’d shown him how to log in and browse the content.
“There really is.”
“And how much does it cost?”
“$9.99 a month.”
“And how many movies can I watch for that price?”
“It’s unlimited; you can watch as much as you want, as many times as you want, for as long as you want.”
“Really?”

You’d have thought I told them Narnia is an actual place. Netflix is the new Narnia, except with snacks and WIFI. The problem is, they can’t find their way out.

It’s been roughly a week, and my parents have already mastered the fine art of binge-watching, casually throwing around phrases like “We’re going to make dinner. Then we’re going to Netflix and chill.” I did warn them that Netflix is dangerously habit-forming, and I granted them access to my account with the caveat that I expected them to view responsibly. In their defense, though, the autoplay feature does tend to rob one of any autonomy, and even the strangest shows become morbidly addictive—like black Mirror, for instance. What happens when technology allows you to replay your own memories? Can that guy really return from the dead? Is the Prime Minister really going to do that to the pig? (Spoiler alert: it almost never ends well). It’s like rubbernecking on the highway; you know you should look away, but you just can’t.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you what you think a person’s Google Alerts reveal about their priorities in life. Mine are full of dead authors, my favorite TV shows, and my imaginary celebrity boyfriends. What do the president’s latest Twitter tantrums matter as long as I got to watch Colin Firth complimenting Halle Berry on her ability to hold her whiskey at Comic Con? (Judgement-free zone here, remember?)

A person’s Google Alerts reveal a lot about how they prioritize information. Why isn’t this a Buzzfeed quiz yet? “What do your Google alerts say about you?” Maybe No one else has ever equated Google Alerts with character assessment, and I’ve just unnecessarily outed myself as stranger than you already thought I was. Besides, I don’t vouch for the accuracy of any of those online character quizzes—except for those Hogwarts Sorting Hat quizzes that tell me I’m a Ravenclaw. Those are the real deal. You can’t take that away from me. Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure!

So, now it’s your turn; what have you been binge-watching on Netflix this week? What do your Google Alerts say about you? There’s still coffee left in my mug.

5 Times We Fell in Love with Colin Firth

He’s left audiences spellbound with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” He’s displayed a surprisingly impressive set of stunt skills in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: the Secret Service.” He carved a permanent place for himself in the hearts of women the world over with his tenderly authentic portrayal of Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” But there’s a bit more to Colin Firth than a dive into a lake and the fact that thanks to him no one else can ever win an ugly sweater contest ever again. Ever.

Photo of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy wearing his reindeer jumper in Bridget Jones's Diary
Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), image credit Miramax

In honor of his birthday today, here’s a look at 5 times the world fell in love with Colin Firth.

1. His 2011 Golden Globes acceptance speech

When he scooped up his Best Actor award at the Golden Globes in 2011 for “The King’s Speech,” the first of many accolades, it was easy to forget for 50 seconds that Firth was drawing on the talent for which he was being awarded. Nonetheless, post-gameshow press recaps praised him for essentially showing showbiz how it’s done.

Go home, Hollywood. Colin’s got this one covered.

2. His moment of gallantry at the 2012 BAFTA Awards

Colin Firth doesn’t break the Internet very often, but we all remember flailing when Meryl Streep, in an adorable if inadvertent Cinderella impression, lost a shoe while mounting the stage to accept an award, and Firth, in true Prince Charming mode, retrieved it for her while his wife Livia looked on with an expression that clearly said, “Sorry, ladies. This one’s mine.”

On a side note, reenacting this scene in the rain while running to teach a class doesn’t conjure Colin from the shadows to save you, as I discovered, to my acute embarrassment. But that’s another story.

3. His jab at Ricky Gervais at the 2012 Golden Globes

Colin Firth is the king of deadpan, and that is all. When Ricky Gervais, albeit jokingly, called him a racist kitten-puncher at the 2012 Golden Globes, this was Firth’s response.

Colin Firth 1, Ricky Gervais 0.

4. His moment of appreciation for Jane Austen

In a 2006 interview, when asked to name the women in his life, Firth replied, “my wife, my mother, and Jane Austen.” While some of us have since speculated that this was largely a tongue-in-cheek jab at the fact that his role in the BBC’s wildly popular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice forever entrenched him in Darcy mania, I have to confess that despite my healthy skepticism, I allowed a tiny piece of my heart to drop into his hand at that moment. You’ve said it, Mr. Firth, and you can’t take it back.

5. His flawless improvisation as Mark Darcy

We’ve all seen “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” We all remember that fateful snowy kiss that was likely the primary catalyst for my decision to drag my last boyfriend with me to a wedding in Wisconsin in the dead of winter in the hope that he might be similarly inspired. (He wasn’t. Because you were wondering. And he’s not my boyfriend any more, for entirely unrelated reasons. Let’s be clear on that). But many people don’t know that Firth ad-libbed Mark Darcys forever classic line at the conclusion of that snowy kiss scene.

Pro tip, nice boys: that’s how it’s done.

So, Happy Birthday, Mr. Firth!

Question

What are your favorite Firth moments?

From Feminism to Fuckwittage: 20 Reasons Why we Love Bridget Jones

On February 28 1995, across the pond in the UK, the following column appeared in the Independent:

Sunday 26th February

8st 13; Alcohol units 2 (excellent); Cigarettes 7; Calories 3,100 (poor).

2pm. Oh why hasn’t Daniel rung? Hideous, wasted weekend glaring psychopathically at the phone, and eating things. I cannot believe I convinced myself I was keeping the entire weekend free to work, when in fact I was on permanent date-with-Daniel standby…Right: work. Beginning on Ash Wednesday: “I will not fantasize about or behave ridiculously regarding Daniel Cleaver, boss of my publishing house” is to be relaunched along with the other New Year Resolutions: I will not smoke, I will get down to 8st 7, I will not recycle items from the laundry basket, I will not bitch about Perpetua but work positively with her.

8pm. Phone call alert, which turned out just to be Tom asking if there was any progress. Tom, who has taken, unflatteringly, to calling himself a Hag-Fag, has been sweetly supportive about the Daniel crisis. (He has a theory that homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding; both being used to disappointing their parents and being treated as freaks by society.)

When the Independent relaunched the columns in 2005, Helen Fielding wrote candidly and, it should come as no surprise, self-deprecatingly, of the Bridget Jones project: “Back in the winter of 1995 I was trying to write an earnest and frankly unreadable novel about cultural divides in the Caribbean, and was rather short of cash. The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.” Yet twenty years, three sets of columns, three books, and two films later, Bridget Jones remains a prevailing pop culture icon.

Photo of author Helen Fielding, seated at a cluttered table, surrounded by scraps of paper. Image credit: Pal Hansen
Author Helen Fielding (2013)

Bridget Jones’s Diary, first published as a novel in 1996, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, has appeared on the BBC’s “Big Read” list of 100 books everyone should read, and readers of the Guardian voted it amongst the 10 books that best defined the 20th century. The 2001 film adaptation, “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and Colin Firth, grossed a worldwide total of $281,929,795, and the 2004 sequel, “Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason,” adapted from the second novel (1999), grossed $262,520,724 worldwide. Most recently, on June 18th of last year, Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy (2013), the latest installment in the series, celebrated selling 1 million copies. From dieting to dating, starting a new job to single parenting, Bridget tells, with brutal honesty and self-deprecating humor, of the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-heart-breaking truth of being a woman. For twenty years, readers have laughed, cried, and loved with Bridget, following every step of her life journey from her first date with Daniel Cleaver, to (SPOILER ALERT!) mourning the death of her husband, Mark Darcy (always remember…), and every cigarette, calorie, and croissant in between. So, in honor of one of the most beloved characters of Contemporary British Fiction, I give you: 20 reasons why we love Bridget Jones.

1. For making women everywhere feel less ashamed about harboring a secret fear of dying alone and being eaten by an Alsatian.

2. For the fact that, if you swap Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” for, appropriately, Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” my Saturday nights pretty much look like this.

3. For introducing the term “emotional fuckwittage” into popular discourse, because it so eloquently and accurately encapsulates the post-breakup feeling of oscillating between heartbroken and hurling empty wine glasses at the wall. (Plus, unlike many words in the English language, the ease of pronouncing it increases with the number of alcohol units consumed).

4. For the time she actually *gasps* walked out on Mark Darcy.

It takes tremendous courage and a strong sense of self to stand up to someone you love the way Bridget does to Mark. From amidst spouting self-help platitudes and objections to obsessive-compulsive underpants folding, we can extrapolate a fundamental truth about all relationships here—that to love someone “just as you are” is far easier said than done. It involves recognizing that, however ashamed we might be to admit, we need validation. We need to be told and shown that we’re loved, if not exhaustively, at least often enough to feel emotionally secure. This is where Mark falls short until Bridget elucidates that for him.

5. For the time she didn’t beat Daniel Cleaver’s lousy, cheating arse to a bloody pulp when she discovered his infidelity.

Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away than it does to throw a punch (not that we will ever fault Mark Darcy for valiantly, albeit ineffectually, taking matters into his own fists).

6. On the other hand: sometimes, a good tongue-thrashing is the only way to get a point across.

Preach it, sista!

7. For the time she survived a horrifying experience in Thai prison with only a Wonderbra, a Madonna song, and a scrap of paper containing a Kipling poem as her tools of survival.

8. For the time she inadvertently stumbled upon the secret to gourmet cooking that Marco Pierre White certainly never shared with us: the way to a man’s heart is through a mess of blue soup and congealed green gunge.

9. For the time she had the courage to ask Colin Firth the question that has been torturing Pride and Prejudice fans for the past two centuries: “Do you think Darcy and Elizabeth would have had sex before the wedding?” (He thinks they would have, by the way. Obviously. Ya know, because you were wondering).

10. And speaking of Colin Firth, this interview just makes all of my fantasies look like the diverting daydreams of a perfectly sane, well-adjusted woman.

I no longer feel ashamed. Thank you, Bridget.

11. For educating us about the mystical properties of terracotta oil-burners, which do, in fact, take in milk. Ask Mark Darcy; he swears he saw it with his own eyes, and a barrister would never lie under oath.

12. For volunteering herself as the comic poster child for basic ski safety, such as, rule number 1: when skiing, always wear skis. Neglecting this usually doesn’t end well.

13. For believing that certain skills, i.e. the ability to ski, the ability to write eloquent Christmas cards, and developing inner poise, improve in direct proportion to number of alcohol units consumed while endeavoring to perfect said skills.

14. For reminding us that women of substance don’t pine over ex-boyfriends and sit waiting for the phone to ring in manner of Pavlov’s dog.

15. And then for making us feel better when we do engage in Pavlovian dog-like behavior and promptly indulge in breakup sex with said ex when he does decide to ring. Because people are human.

16. For the time she succeeded in getting Mark Darcy to defend the postmodernist merits of “Blind Date.” Because let’s face it, there’s something deeply satisfying about the knowledge that even hoity-toity top human rights barristers who drive fancy cars and live in wedding cake-shaped houses in Holland Park are still human enough to occasionally be slaves to mainstream popular culture.

17. (SPOILER ALERT!) For the time she helped Billy and Mabel to mail Father’s Day cards to Mark under the address “Daddy, Heaven, the sky.” Because sometimes being a single parent means accepting that, whatever you do, there is still a gap in your children’s hearts, and the only thing you can fill it with is extra love.

18. For her saint-like show of restraint at the smug married dinner party during which she was forced to endure Woney asking why she wasn’t married yet in a simpering voice while stroking her own visibly pregnant belly. Here’s the thing, all you Woneys of the world: when you ask a singleton that question, this is what we’re really thinking: “Because if I had to cook Cosmo’s dinner then get into the same bed as him just once, let alone every night, I’d tear off my own head and eat it.” But thanks to Bridget, we know that sometimes inner poise is nothing more than biting one’s tongue to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, and this is what makes us superior creatures and women of substance.

19. For educating readers about the pitfalls of tweeting under the influence of alcohol. Exhibit A:

11.07 p.m. @JoneseyBJ ‘They toil not, neither do they tweet.’ Hmm. No, they do tweet though. Thasu point with birds.

11.08 p.m. @JoneseyBJ Anyway f*** em. Stupid birds flapping around tweeting all over s place. Oh oh look at me! I’m a bird!

11.15 p.m. @JoneseyBJ Hate birds. Look at that movie ‘The Birds’! Birds can turn MAN-EATING.

11.16 p.m. @JoneseyBJ Pecking people’s eyes out with 60s hairdos. Vicious nasty birds.

11.30 p.m. @JoneseyBJ 85 followess gone waway. Why? Why’wasi hwohave I don? Comeback!

@JoneseyBJ Noo! Follwers draining away as if through sieve.

@JoneseyBJ Nooo! Hate bireds Hatetweetings Hate drainqine away follwoers. An goingsoto bed!

I’m now going to keep that on my desktop as a caveat against “Twunking.”

20. For reminding women everywhere that sometimes feminism is not about political movements, or defying marriage statistics, or plotting ways to lock men in kennels until they’ve learned to wash their own socks and do the washing up, but about living honestly, being true to yourself, and listening to the quiet voice in your heart that tells you to love yourself, just as you are.

So, here’s to you, Bridget Jones, just as you are!