As far as Google searches go, the one for “Timothée Chalamet’s feet” is fairly subdued. A mere 1.5 million results, substantially less than “Timothée Chalamet hair” (7.72 million) or “Timothée Chalamet girlfriend” (6.76 million—low, quite frankly, considering how these days it feels like the internet is powered by our collective thirst for that charming little ratbag).
Even “Timothée Chalamet bowl cut” yields more results: some 7.14 million articles about the fact that, during production on his new movie The King, Timmy was sat down, strapped in, and unceremoniously shorn of his very floppy hair. The decision was both historical and literary: in The King, Timmy plays a young Prince Hal en route to becoming King Henry V of England, as told by a few Shakespeare plays. This path takes Hal through all the usual back alleys and side streets—grotty taverns, tankards of ale, buxom bar wenches, and ego-swelling duels—until he’s ready to assume his throne. You know that he’s ready when he cuts his mop of curls into that Very Serious and distressing bowl cut. The party prince is dead. Long live the King!
In some ways, The King is largely recognizable as a historical epic. It centers around a single battle between the English and the French. There are plenty of scenes in which shaggy men in chainmail discuss war strategy by pushing little figurines across a parchment map.
But then, there’s the feet. Chalamet’s feet feature almost as prominently in The King as his bowl cut does; so too do the feet of Joel Edgerton, who plays Prince Hal’s loyal (and only) confidant, Falstaff. At first blush, you may think that thine eyes deceive you, but as the film unfolds, the truth will become clear: This movie is all about feet. When Hal and Falstaff are down on their luck in the first half, the camera lingers on their grubby soles. (Are they walking through the muddy, mucky streets barefoot? How did their feet get so dirty? Don’t @ me, I don’t want to know the answer.) Later, when their fortunes improve, their feet become the focus of their newfound success. In one scene, Falstaff luxuriates in a cedar tub while a servant rubs oils into his mercifully, clean feet. Even later still, when Hal is crowned King, he does so barefoot. The camera lingers on Chalamet’s toes as he pads somberly towards his destiny.
The feet are the thing, really. A sign of how The King subverts the trappings of a traditional biopic in favor of something a little left of center. Think about it: How many historical epics have you seen in which feet–grungy, massaged, regal—play such a pivotal role? And it’s not just the feet that prove subversive. There’s also the way that Chalamet moves in his costumes with the swagger of a man who has lived his entire life under the watchful eye of the internet. Sure, Prince Hal wears billowing tunics and capes, but Chalamet slings a low belt over them and saunters around with the louche, chaotic energy of someone more comfortable in Off White. If you were in doubt about the kind of Prince Hal is, note that he wears a thick gold chain around his neck at all times.
There’s also Robert Pattinson. Our incumbent Batman makes his entrance about halfway through The King, just when you need him the most. Up until this point, the movie has been pretty staid, foot close-ups notwithstanding. By the time it gets to the battlefield, the movie is on autopilot. Then, there he is, ready to wake everyone the fuck up: Pattinson as the Dauphin of France, hair cropped into a shaggy blonde bob and speaking in a French accent so outrageously camp it makes Pepe le Pew look like cinéma vérité.
“You must have giant balls,” Pattinson’s Dauphin trills with delirious relish to Prince Hal. “With a tiny little penis!” Here, Pattinson uses his fists and fingers to drive the point home. It is—and I cannot stress this enough—wild.
If ever there were a period drama made for the meme era, this is it. Everything about this film is designed with today’s viewer in mind. Gone is the Shakespearean dialogue and, in its place, quippy modern parlance. The costumes might be traditional but they’re worn with current, youthful disdain. Pattinson being the most Pattinsonian he’s ever been is impossible not to applaud.
And don’t forget the feet, which appear as if plucked directly from Tumblr stan fiction and woven into the film. Not unlike the countless gif-able moments of The Favourite, The King’s foot obsession takes the lukewarm historical epic genre and shakes it up by the ankles.
The King is in showing selected cinemas now before streaming on Netflix starting November 1.
Photos via Everett Collection.