Synopsis: Former party boy becomes King of England, has a spat with France.
“Long Live the King!” “Long Live the Sad Boy!”
Timothée Chalamet stars as Henry V in The King, with a script by director David Michôd and Joel Edgerton, who also co-stars as Falstaff. The King is inspired by Shakespeare’s Henriad (Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V), following the plotting basics (and inclusion of the fictional character Falstaff), but jettisoning the immortal prosey-verse. Instead the actors spout dialogue that sounds Shakespearean, but allow us to easily follow along. They say things like: “Be gone! I have a Kingdom to run” “Vexation shall a-plunder all men who have taverned.” “Dimes to doughnuts, the Gauls attack before yon Witches’ Moon.” and “Where hath I placed mine crown?” Methinks the dialogue would nettle the ears of the Sweet Swan of Avon.
But what inspired casting! Especially of the beautiful man-child Timothée Chalamet as Henry V. Oh, he’s such a sad boy. He broods and frowns like a prep school boy who has just received notice that he’s not getting into an Ivy. And he looks so lovely through it all with his English Rose complexion, soulful eyes that look as though they are on the verge of weeping and thick dark locks all a-muss. I know that heavy is the head that wears the crown etc., but why is our Timmi so sad even at the beginning of the movie when he is utterly devoid of any responsibilities, carousing like the trust fund baby that he is?
Henry V’s foe is the Dauphin (Prince) of France, son of King Charles VI. Good for whomever offered Robert Pattinson the part because he is the most ridiculous dauphin ever. First off, he’s made up like one of the vampire Volturi in Twilight. Secondly, R Patz chuckles and glowers through his monologues wherein he taunts and threatens poor Timmi, uh, Hal. And, for a final treat, he goes wonderfully over the top with his French accent. He’s divine.
I should mention that Joel Edgerton is fine as Falstaff, Ben Mendelsohn is effective as Henry IV and Thomasin McKenzie makes an impression in her short onscreen time as Henry V’s sister, Queen Phillippa of Denmark. But I want to get to Lily-Rose Depp! She’s cast as Catherine of Valois, who will be betrothed to Henry V. I was especially interested when the internet lit up with pix of Timmi and Lily-Rose holidaying in Capri after filming was complete. They were kissing passionately whilst yachting. Lily-Rose looked like a modern day goddess in her leopard print bikini whilst Timmi called to mind the Dying Gaul sculpture, finely wrought, but so exhausted-looking; he lounged while Lily-Rose covered him with her body. Was it too much to hope for some passion in The King? Sadly, yes. Timmi/ Hal is a sad boy at all times. But the camera does telegraph a magnetic pull between the two actors and Ms. Depp captivates as a quietly challenging Catherine.
So…a quick primer on the real Henry V & Shakespeare’s Henry… Henry V was King of England from his father’s death in 1413 until his own death in 1422. While still a teen, Henry fought to quell rebellion within his father’s realm. War festered as England and France were battling in the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453). In 1415 the English invaded France as part of Henry V’s claim to the French throne. Henry’s troops defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt, winning Hal portions of France and the hand of Johnny Depp’s daughter, I mean, the French King Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine.
Shakespeare wrote Henry V in 1599, lionizing the King and glorifying England’s military triumphs. The play concerns the time shortly before Henry’s campaign into France and culminates in the Battle of Agincourt. Prior to becoming King, Shakespeare portrayed Hal as a bon vivant, sexing and drinking. He also assiduously avoids his dad. And work. Weirdly, his guru and fellow partier is Falstaff, an aging knight. IRL, Henry soldiered and ran the show when his dad was sick. And there was no Falstaff. Read just a few quick bios of Henry the V and it’s clear he had war mongering tendencies.
The King tells the story of a reluctant warrior. In fact, he’s a peacenik. The narrative strongly suggests that Timmi is such a sad boy because he can’t stop thinking of the madness and futility of war. Early on Timmi shows up at the Battle of Shrewsbury where rebellion must be squashed, taking charge from his naïve brother. Timmi’s bro is quite miffed, huffing and puffing like a model who thinks he booked his first big job, until somebody, some perfect-looking sad boy, shows up and steals his thunder.
Timmi doesn’t like hacking opponents to death, but we will see that he can do so with alacrity. I couldn’t help but notice that his suit of armor seemed to be a size zero and when we see a nearly naked Timmi anointed King after his father’s death — well, let’s just say that he wouldn’t be your first choice to open that jar of olives. So while he is beautiful, hand-to-hand combat doesn’t look to be part of his wheelhouse.
Timmi also doesn’t crave glory, but when England needs him he is a big boy about his responsibilities. He even has his sexy mane cut into a hideous bowl cut to show everyone how serious he is about leaving behind his libertine lifestyle. In Shakespeare’s telling, Henry tells Falstaff to feck off because he needs to get serious about adulting, what with becoming king and all. The movie’s script makes Falstaff into a wise advisor because Joel Edgerton, the actor who plays him is one of the screenwriters;) Speaking of which, Mr. Edgerton & Mr. Minôd have a few tricks up their sleeve for the final act. If you were afraid that the film will break its 100% solemn at all times track record, fear not. Did you see Sir Kenneth Branagh’s fantastic HenryV? The 1989 film has a scene between Sir Kenneth as Henry V and Dame Emma Thompson as Catherine (IRL spouses at the time). It is delightfully light and flirtatious. Such levity would never be in The King.
But who cares?! Timmi is such a magnificent sad boy as Henry V, showing great range when he goes from glum sad boy to angry sad boy. He can do what he wants– with one exception; no more shearing of locks for a bowl cut. A haircut that never worked on anyone. Hey! Maybe that’s why he’s such a sad boy.