Five Things About The King (2019)

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I was all set to drool over Timothée Chalamet in The King (2019) because he’s totally my type of prettyboy, despite him being younger than my college degree. But Netflix’s movie loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V plays (which are loosely based in history) bored the hell out of me after 15 minutes, and were it not that I’d already scheduled this review, I’d have consigned it the Oh the Bad Movies You’ll Watch category and gone on my merry way. Instead, I tried to watch while mostly shopping online and grabbing screencaps. Here are five things I came away with from The King

 

1 . It’s a total boy movie, and that’s not great

There’s a lot of toxic masculinity at play. Lords and vassals bickering, fathers and sons bickering, brothers bickering, rival kings bickering. Plus battles. So much boy vs. boy and not in a hot gay sex fashion. At least Shakespeare’s Henriad doctors up this stuff with some pretty language that’s more ‘band of brothers’ than ‘boys will be boys.’

The King (2019)

He’s *really* pretty. But it’s not enough.

It’s weird having Timothée Chalamet at the helm because he’s so NOT a typical macho manly man leading man type, what with his scrawny, pouty, emo boi style. So a lot of the boy stuff comes off as winey, and that’s worse.

 

2. 15th-century hipster fashion

The King (2019)

The movie starts with a title card saying “early 15th century,” and I guess that’s a hint that the costuming will be vaguely in the period. The shapes and materials are kind of there, but the costumes have that stripped down ‘jeans-and-T-shirt’ aesthetic that some costume designers are doing because they think it makes historical costumes look ‘modern.’ Which is dumb because, HELLO, historical costumes shouldn’t look modern. headdesk

In Fashionista, costume designer Jane Petrie talked about the blue colors she used for Chalamet:

“It was indigo, which was available at the time, and had a feel of a cool denim jacket or something. It was washed through and all this texture allowed me to break down and make it look worn, as though it was something he went out in to party.”

The references to a denim jacket and going to a party — she’s just modernizing the whole thing. Color me annoyed.

The King (2019)

I guess that’s supposed to be chainmail? It looks like a cardigan & shirt from the Gap.

The king wears skinny jeans, apparently.

 

3. The headdresses and the hair

Yeah, everyone noticed this in the trailers. You pin your hair up underneath an elaborate veiled headdress. Heck, underneath most any hat until the hats get tiny. A big hat and veil combo is meant to cover all the hair. That’s kind of the whole point of the thing.

The King (2019)

Though the headdresses look nice in and of themselves. Apparently, Petrie had wanted to do this for a while. In Fashionista, she describes this:

“I’ve had a little personal project going on for years and years and years and I was waiting for those women to come into my life one day,” explains the costume designer, who has been sculpting medieval headpieces with linen and wallpaper paste at home. Relieved that [director and co-writer David] Michôd was open to the idea, which could be distracting if not done properly, Petrie enlisted a milliner to bring her DIY experiments to the screen. “She did exactly what was in my head,” Petrie says.

I’m a little horrified by the idea of linen and wallpaper paste — historically, they’re just draped veils held with pins, and some of the more elaborate ones would be draped over a wire frame. I’m imagining Petrie making something crunchy like a very angular, pointy helmet. Ouch! Thankfully, she got a real milliner in there.

The King (2019)

Even in silhouette, you can see Catherine’s hair hanging down.

 

4. Zee kwazy Frawch!

Oh Robert Pattinson, please don’t do a French accent again! He plays The Dauphin, and he sounds like Inspector Clouseau. I get that he’s supposed to be the bad guy and a ridiculous character, but lordy he’s OTT.

The King (2019)

Runner up on the weird accents is the Archbishop of Canterbury with a lisp who just reminds me of the priest in The Princess Bride.

The King (2019)

Also, I found the pasted-on-icons look of his robe weird, but I’m so bored by this movie that I don’t want to bother looking up ecclesiastical fashions of the 15th-c. Feel free to discuss the accuracy of this in the comments!

 

5. Not enough girls

The King (2019)

The other side of #1 is that we only meet two women. At Hal’s coronation feast, his sister, Philippa, Queen of Denmark, shows up for a chat.

The King (2019)

Who doesn’t love a woman in a giant unadorned sack? Also, skirt hiking, my favorite!

Then at the very end, Hal meets Catherine of Valois, who is presented as his prize for conquering France. But Catherine calls Hal on his shit, puncturing the male ego he’d inflated during the previous 70 minutes since his father died. It may be the best piece of dialogue in the whole movie.

The King (2019)

And since there are so few women, I can’t say much about their costumes. More of the stripped-down look, and here Jane Petrie’s excuse is that the fancy headdress was the focus (I guess she thinks modern audiences can’t take in too much detail, ugh):

“I thought the best way to not steal from it [the headdress] and clutter it up was to keep the rest of the clothing just clean and simple, but for there to be a lot of it. So the sleeves are huge and pooled into tiny, tiny little cartridge pleats on the cuff. We were just very plush with the amount of cloth, but we kept it to calm colors and calm shapes and not really any decoration on it at all.” — Fashionista

Whatever.

The King (2019)

Snooze.

 

 

What did you take away from The King?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

63 Responses

  1. Nzie

    Well, I was thinking of watching it, but not after the reviews I read, and yours confirms that x1000. Neither Chalamet nor Pattinson are particularly up my ally.

    Also I just saw a Richard III production that just befuddled the hell out of me in terms of costumes, but really quite a few production choices, so I feel I’ve done my time. I did think of this blog when Elizabeth was decked out in gold lamé, including a deeply egregious headpiece that was… gold just close to the scalp and then with her hair coming out in a ponytail. It was also overly committed to a slaughterhouse metaphor and making sure the audience got the jokes…. yet somehow most of the reviews were strong, so I suppose I probably just Lack Good Taste, for thinking the director Lacked Good Judgment.

    This morning I woke early and put on The Knight Before Christmas… even with its generic renfaire vibe, more accurate than the RIII production (which I was prepared to be pretty generous with except it lacked internal coherence and was entirely too sparkly) and perhaps more accurate than this movie.

    Reply
      • Nzie

        I think it must be! I mean it has like no A plot really (even the romance, lol) and under developed B plots but it’s funny and fun. They have the medieval guy learn modern lingo from binging Netflix… and they have the first thing he sees be another netflix movie. :-)

        Reply
  2. Nzie

    On the priestly vestments, I’ve seen I think icon stoles, although I don’t know the era. I question the icons not going all the way around. I also question pretty much everything else about the look—if it’s a Mass there should be a lot more going on, whereas it just looks like an alb and a stole in this pic tbh. It looks like he has a red or purple-ish zucchetto (so, bishop or cardinal) on so I would expect even more yet (such as another stole particular to bishops).

    The icon stole looks more eastern to me but that’s probably just my more modern eyes.

    The Met has an article from a 2015 exhibit that shows an icon with a figure with an icon stole. Note that the icons do appear to continue to the back. https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2015/why-vestments

    And a longer article on all the stuff worn by priests during Mass in that period (a lot more than today): http://modernmedievalism.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-look-into-medieval-parish-churchs.html

    Reply
  3. SamIAm

    I tried watching it. My 18 year old son was feeling it but I was bored. I was really only in it for Edgerton anyway.

    I hated the women’s gowns. Boring, shapeless, zero color, nightgowns, the lot of them.

    And Lily-Rose’s face looks fresh from the plastic surgeon’s. She really shouldn’t do historical

    Reply
  4. Terézia Marková

    I am not bothered as much by Pattinson’s french accent. I guarantee you it would be 99% less annoying if the dauphin wasn’t such a joke. Good god, why was this character in the movie?! What did he actually add to the story at hand, except some dumb jokes and the obligatory “french jerk” caricature, that seems to be in every Hollywood movie with at least one french character?!

    Reply
    • Al Don

      Good point. The real Dauphin was much younger than Pattinson (and younger than Henry V) and took no part in the Agincourt campaign. Shakespeare at least had Charles d’Albret commanding at Agincourt, even if he incorrectly puts the Dauphin there as well. Shakespeare’s French characters were righteously angry and menacing – or at least can be if the performances do them justice.

      Reply
      • Terézia Marková

        To be fair, he was pretty fun in a “so bad it’s good” way, which in a movie otherwise mostly devoid of entertainment value looks like a good thing (but isn’t). Which explains why people generally like his performance. I mean, if anyone can show they know what kind of movie they are in, it’s RPatz himself.

        Reply
  5. Kai Jones

    Man I thought Rpatz was the most fun in the movie-the rest was boring AF. His costuming/hair direction was “I want to be a pretty princess too!” and I think he achieved that.

    Reply
  6. Aleko

    Also, whyTF does the Queen of Denmark have a rectangular piece of dingy material (possibly a large dishcloth) held in the crook of her elbows as though it was a Regency shawl? If she’s cold in that low-necked sack, why not wear a nice miniver-lined cloak? And/or a hood with a shoulder cape?

    Reply
  7. Jeff Faulk

    The “cardigan” is likely supposed to be an arming doublet or pourpoint. Though they do a rather poor job overall of depicting what a stoutly padded linen or wool jacket designed to hold your armour on your body should look like…

    Reply
  8. Arthur McClench

    The King’. 7 mins 37 seconds in. Cliché ashtray full. The implausibility dial is up to eleven. Nobles with designer stubble and greasy hair. Check. Gnawing at chicken legs. Check. Random regional accents. Check. Rasped dialogue bearing no relation to actually human behaviour. Check. Shot like a graphic novel but not in a good way and written using an upturned box of scrabble tiles. Swiping left and turning off. Check

    The past is a different country. They didn’t have to watch shite historical dramas there.

    And the armour was all wrong.

    Reply
  9. Al Don

    I was baffled by the idea. It’s Shakespeare’s narrative, with all its falsehoods, but not the thing that still sells Shakespeare today: his beautiful language. Once again they push the false narrative of the drunk hellion Prince Hal. They laughably make Henry V generally pacifist who was dragged into war. The tactics during the battle didn’t happen and are incredibly stupid. And hell, even Shakespeare knew they used cannon at Harfleur.
    The armour and costume are the usual cliché. Henry V’s clothes during the execution look like an Old Navy imitation of court clothing. The armour is poorly fitted, mixing different time periods, the decorations are largely wrong, and often characters are under-equipped. We know from sources Henry V wore his colours and had a crowned helmet, which was supposedly clipped by a French axe. Can you imagine if this Henry, with an unpadded coif that he removes, took that same blow to the head?
    Interesting they skipped the Battle of Shrewsbury in favour of a duel that never happened. The also use Shakespeare’s version of Hotspur’s age, when in real life he was pushing 40. Here Hotspur is a teenager and looks like a kid, which has odd implications. Did the filmmakers think Hotspur was a 3-year-old when he commanded the English at Otterburn?

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      “It’s Shakespeare’s narrative, with all its falsehoods, but not the thing that still sells Shakespeare today: his beautiful language.”

      –THIS a million times! I could forgive a lot if I have Shakespeare’s words. Tho’ really, the 2 great filmed versions of Henry V (Olivier’s & Brannagh’s) have far better costumes than this, in addition to Shakespeare.

      Reply
      • Terézia Marková

        Some lines were good, but they seemingly just couldn’t pick between more natural, grounded dialogue and pompous “shakespearian” manner of speech. The result was confused and unnatural as all hell.

        Reply
    • Aleko

      We also know that he was nearly killed at the age of 16 by an arrow wound in the face, which required the invention of a whole new surgical process (lasting for weeks) to remove. It was successful but left the right side of his face disfigured, which is why the only real portrait of him shows him (very unusually) in profile from the left.

      Reply
      • Al Don

        While quite true he was wounded in the face with an arrow, the “right side” theory, and painting in profile, are modern theories that are based on fallacious reasoning. It was started by one non-historian which incorrectly morphed into “historians”. The only real evidence we have, John Bradmore himself, stated it was Henry’s left side.

        As to the paintings, the painting you’re most likely referring to was done over a century after Henry’s death by someone who couldn’t possibly have seen him. That pose is common for oil paintings both before and after Henry V’s life. The manuscript of Henry V that was from his lifetime shows most of his full face, 3/4th profile, with the scar not depicted. Henry V’s tomb effigy, likewise done from life, simply doesn’t depict the scar.

        Paintings can just excise details. The best evidence he have at present suggests the left side with no actual evidence against (long-posthumous paintings can’t be evidence).

        Reply
  10. Charity

    I watched the whole thing while packing up Halloween stuff, but I’d never watch it again. Mostly because I thought the main character was a cold-hearted little turd. :P

    Reply
  11. Maryanne

    What I think I’d take away from it is an incipient migraine. Which is my code for the band My Chemical romance, who should have done the sound track and nailed this whole sorry mess once and for all!

    Reply
  12. Lmaris

    Pretty sure the writer/director read Cliff’s Notes of Shakespeare and used MMA as his theme.

    Single combat I guess is cheaper to film than all the extras & CGI required for actual battle scenes, since this was, according to their script, the way to resolve all battles. But this looked more like drunken LARP brawls.

    And then there is Aigencort. 2 thin flights of arrows only then a charge out of the woods? Who writes this stuff?

    Gawd it was terrible.

    Reply
  13. Colleen

    I checked out after thirty minutes of not actually watching. I skipped ahead to see RPattz, and felt “meh.”

    Reply
  14. Katie O.

    When I first heard that Netflix was making a movie based on the play, I was excited because I love big budget historical films but the story was so dull and we couldn’t even focus on pretty costumes because everything was so meh. At least the fucking spanish princess made an attempt to do something with their ugly historically inaccurate costumes.

    Also the older I’ve gotten the less patience I have for movies that don’t have female characters because of “historical accuracy”. Women have always existed!

    Reply
  15. Kymm Zuckert

    I knew it was going to be a sack of hot garbage as soon as I heard that someone let Joel Edgerton write it and cast himself as Falstaff, there wasn’t the smallest chance it was going to be good after that.

    Reply
  16. Roxana

    Pretty boys are just not enough. Especially if you put them in dull, colorless clothes. The one thing fifteenth c. Dress wasn’t was dull an certainly not colorless!

    Reply
      • Roxana

        He’s very pretty but if you hadn’t told us Henry was being portrayed by a male actor I’d have wondered if they were doing Shakespeare’s favorite girl disguised as boy trope. No insult to Chalamont intended, androgyne can be a great look.

        Reply
        • Victoria Hannah

          Which is putting me even further in doubt that Chalamet can carry Dune as Muad’Dib (I think he can pull off young Paul Atreides extraordinarily well, but that transition between young Paul son of the Duke, and Paul Muad’Dib leader of the Fremen peoples and head of the Jihad against the Harkonnens and the Emperor will prove difficult for such a callow actor who can’t pull off gravitas). Sorry just a very small aside. (And I was hoping this film would prove his worth to me as a leader of men…it didn’t.)

          Reply
  17. H.D. von Schmittou II

    Despite the fact that you labeled it “a boy movie” (which is a bit confining to imply there are no women who would enjoy it) I, as a very much female viewer enjoyed it. The costumes were quite a let down, the story for sure took liberties, but the highlight that made the movie for me was the dialogue! Even though the costumes took a “make it modern so people will like it” approach, the dialogue wasn’t afraid to try be more authentic to the period than most costume dramas that simplify everything in hopes of attracting the widest audience possible. I also really enjoyed how they showcased that the royalty of this time would have very much been speaking in French, even in the English court. It’s definitely not perfect by any means, but the dialogue and Catherine’s rebuking of Henry at the end made it a very provoking film I thought. To each their own I guess

    Reply
    • Aleko

      Except that the royalty of this time would have very much not have been speaking in French in the English court. Norman French had ceased to be the cradle-tongue of anyone at all in England centuries previously. Noblemen and lawyers had to learn it, because it was the language of the justice system; but nobody spoke it in ordinary life, or wrote literature in it. It had always been very different from the French of Paris, the ancestor of modern French, and over the years it had become garbled and fossilised. It’s significant that the first king of England to break the custom of taking his coronation oath in (Norman) French was Henry’s father, Henry IV, who had been exiled by Richard II and spent a number of years knocking about the Continent, including time in Paris trying to get the King of France to support him in invading England to depose Richard. Unlike any of his predecessors as King, he must have been well aware how useless antiquated Norman French was anywhere in Europe, and how quaint and amusing the French nobility found it.

      Reply
    • Al Don

      “the dialogue wasn’t afraid to try be more authentic to the period than most costume dramas”

      There’s nothing authentic, or even attempting to be authentic, about the dialogue. They’re just speaking modern English in a pompous fashion. That’s no more or less correct than other Medieval films because they too are translating.

      The English would have spoke Middle English which would require subtitles for us to watch (I’d love to see it done some day). Having them speak modern English with fancier wording is mostly pointless. Further, how exactly we’d translate Middle English to modern readers is also subject to debate: do you use archaic English or modern English?

      But make no mistake; the screenwriters didn’t attempt authenticity and I’d be surprised if they even know what that means.

      Reply
      • Al Don

        Addendum: we have actual quotes from the campaign and the Battle of Agincourt. Contemporary sources have some good quotes. In fact, historians have a very good idea what the real Henry V said to his troops before the battle of Agincourt. If they wanted authenticity, why not use what Henry V said? Did any of those real quotes make it into the movie?

        No.

        Reply
    • Roxana

      As Aleko says French was no longer the court language. It was fading by the 13thc. And by the 14th it was the enemies language. English literature was patronized by Edward III and his sons.

      Reply
  18. Nude Diver

    Talk about someone overanalyzing a movie. Geez. After reading this kind of hyper critical reviews, I was ready for the movie to be horrible. Imagine my surprise when I found myself truly enjoying the movie. Even the French accent was good. I kept asking myself: who are these negative reviewers?!

    Reply
  19. Mina van Berh

    Oh god. As a reenactor who specializes in early 15th century, I feel a little ill just by looking at these pictures. I mean, what the…? I fear that Ms. Petrie just wanted to live out her artistic dreams. None of the main characters‘ costumes look right to me. The headpieces she created are a mix of later fashions and pure fantasy (also: tuck away the damn hair!!) and the dresses of the women are just so clumsy and loveless. And don‘t get me even started on Mister Skinny Pants. I can‘t understand why it is usually possible to give secondary characters a quite nice and authentic look (see title picture in the background), while the main character looks like he hopped in from 2019 – or is this a movie about time travel?? Arghh.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      The tendency to dress the leads in more modern styles is something I’ve noticed in historical for years. I assume because the movie makers want the leads to be attractive to viewers.
      Straight, shoulder to hem gowns with lots of volume are thirteenth c. not fifteenth. And what’s with the hair hanging out from under the headdresses???
      The Fifteenth century was the age of the houpland and gorgeous fairytale hennins and escoffions. Men showed off long shapely legs under short, short doublets and women loved it. And everybody was into fabulous fabrics and colors. And what do they give us? Blah!

      Reply
      • Trystan L. Bass

        “The tendency to dress the leads in more modern styles is something I’ve noticed in historical for years. I assume because the movie makers want the leads to be attractive to viewers.”

        Ugh, that bugs me so much. It’s pandering & just gets boring! Now, the concept isn’t new — in the 1930s-1950s under the Hollywood studio system, actresses (in particular) were under contract not to change their appearance very much from film to film so they’d still be “recognizable.” That’s why you see Bette Davis with her same crazy eyebrows in all the historical films she made. And the costume designers were obviously influenced by the contemporary period they lived in. But they also made a lot more than a vague hand-wave in the direction of the historical period the film was trying to portray.

        Reply
        • Roxana

          The rule first struck me when watching Leslie Howard’s Scarlet Pimpernel. Merle Oberon’s ball gown is so obviously NOT 1790s as opposed to the other actress’s outfits that it was hard to miss.

          Reply
  20. Just Me

    They made all the rich royals look like boring peasants with all the drab colors and sack-like silhouettes. I guess cause it’s supposed to be a Manly show, and we all know Manly Men aren’t allowed to like clothes, or colors.

    Reply
  21. Simon Estill

    Northern Renaissance/Late Gotihic art of the period (see Van Eyk) shows much more sumptuous and colourful clothing than is seen in the film. Admittedly the models are wearing their best clothing but this is the court of a major European power Also, the armour is all wrong. We know what early 15th century armour looked like and men at arms wore surcoats over their amour with their arms on them. It was a bit Monty Python and the Holy Grail which at least satirised Medieval tropes rather than reinforcing them

    Reply
  22. lesartsdecoratifs

    The icons stole is historically accurate enough, for anyone who cares. One from the 15th century recently turned up at a French auction and sold for 2400 Euros. It was prettier than the movie’s though.

    Reply
  23. florabeltaine

    I was tempted to watch it, having liked the Outlaw King which was also produced by Netflix but as a French I shrieked in terror as I heard Pattinson’s accent in the trailer This movie incidentally managed to piss off the whole historical scene in France apparently. Terrible research on the actual events, diabolisation of the French and they totally ignored the fact that the historical version of our hero lived most of his life across the channel, in Aquitaine which was at the time under English rule.

    Reply
    • Al Don

      “the fact that the historical version of our hero lived most of his life across the channel, in Aquitaine”

      Are you referring to Henry V? He was born in Wales, hence the nickname “Henry of Monmouth”, and was raised in Wales, Ireland, and England. The first time he set foot on the continent was as an invader. He spent a lot of time campaigning in France but that still wouldn’t constitute the majority of his life.

      Henry also legally changed the language of court from Norman French to English – the push for English started as far back as Edward III.

      Reply

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