The line has been uttered more than once over the decades and it still holds true, no matter who first said it: there’s nothing wrong with the movie business that can’t be fixed by good movies. The industry cannot survive on Marvel “event” pictures and Top Gun alone…and the typical audience for art or specialty fare, including older viewers, have fallen out of the habit of going out, especially with so many titles readily available at home.

That said, let me encourage you to get up from your sofa or bed and patronize one of the 750 theaters that are showing The Lost King starting this weekend. It’s not because the film is epic in scale or ambition, or that it wouldn’t translate well to a home screen. It’s because The Lost King is so good that it will make you feel the kind of deep-down satisfaction we all used to share with an audience on a regular basis.

The gifted British actress Sally Hawkins, who disappears into the characters she plays, stars as a real-life heroine named Philippa Langley. Although suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome while raising two boys (and navigating life with her ex-husband, Steve Coogan) she becomes intrigued with the life of King Richard III after attending a performance of Shakespeare’s play. It seems to her that history, including the Bard of Avon, has given him a raw deal. Overlooked at her office job, she desperately needs something to fire her up and researching Richard is just the ticket.

She seeks out historians who have labeled him a usurper (and murderer, to boot) and confronts them, eventually finding support from a group called the Ricciardis. Rudely discouraged and stonewalled at every turn, she refuses to relent in her pursuit of the truth, which has been suppressed for five hundred years. Although she is dismissed as an amateur, she trusts her instincts, with a little help from a mysterious source (which I will not divulge here). 

Her dogged resolve even wins over her family, including her ex. It’s details like this that help to make The Lost King more than a mere docudrama. Philippa’s dealings with a variety of people, both sympathetic and hostile, are completely believable. Coogan, who also produced and wrote the film with Jeff Pope, and director Stephen Frears, are attempting verisimilitude and succeed with flying colors—and an unexpected touch of whimsy.

The Lost King is a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening film for grownups, and well worth seeing. If you can’t persuade your significant other to seek out a theater near you, it is also available on VOD.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024