A Brief History of Colin Firth Being a Stick in the Mud

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In Woody Allen's latest Magic in the Moonlight Colin Firth plays a character that is a variation on a familiar theme for him: an uptight blowhard, who is often softened by the end of the movie, often by his love for a heroine. This time he plays Stanley, a magician who sets out to prove that Sophie (Emma Stone), an American medium, is a fraud. Though he has little respect for her he, yes, ends up realizing that he really loves her.

This type of character has been Firth's wheelhouse for years now, and that's not to say he's not good at it. "Firth does his usual Firthy thing to good effect," Richard Lawson wrote in his review of the film for Vanity Fair. "I worry he’s tired of doing all that stiff blustering, but he’s awfully good at it, so if he wants to keep doing it, I’m willing to watch." At The Wrap, Inkoo Kang explained: "Colin Firth lends his considerable crumpet-up-the-bum charisma to his character Stanley." 

Of course he doesn't always play the exact same character. Sometimes these men are truly snobs. Sometimes they are just awkward. Sometimes they never get over their terribleness. But many have that trademark blustering that turns into genuine emotion. Here are some of Firth's most Firth-y roles. 

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Pride and Prejudice

The BBC's Pride and Prejudice is what endeared most people to Firth's prickly charms. And Mr. Darcy is perhaps the perfect attractive douche-turned-good guy, completely rude and impertinent on first meeting, but ultimately realizing the error of his ways. Just watch how cruel he is to Elizabeth Bennet in the first scene in which they meet. 

But my goodness can he melt a heart with the best of them. 

Shakespeare in Love

Okay, in Shakespeare in Love he never experiences a turn. He remains an asshole to the end as the boorish Lord Wessex. In Magic in the Moonlight, Firth once again employs his frustrated semi-yell.  

Bridget Jones' Diary

In Bridget Jones' Diary Firth's quite literally plays an updated version of Mr. Darcy, Mark Darcy, who author Helen Fielding actually based on Firth himself. He starts off as real pill in a reindeer sweater. 

But then, you know, ends up loving Bridget for exactly who she is. 

What a Girl Wants

Amanda Bynes heads to Britain to find her father and finds Colin Firth, who is an uptight lord trying to run for Prime Minister. He wants her to change to fit in, but then obviously realizes that she's great just the way she is. It's not romantic love, but it's the same general theme. 

Girl with a Pearl Earring

As the painter Johannes Vermeer, Firth comes off as less of a jerk than simply a cold genius, but he certainly warms toward Scarlett Johansson's servant girl Griet, who gets him and becomes the (fictional) subject of his most famous work. 

Love Actually

Firth's Jamie actually starts off softer and more genial than most of his characters. He's the one who has his heartbroken, after all, when he finds out that his girlfriend has been sleeping with his brother. When he finally meets Aurelia, his match in the movie he's reserved simply because they don't speak the same language, but that barrier essentially amounts to a Firth-y uptightness, which paves the way for his heartfelt confession of love. 

The King's Speech

Even Firth's Oscar winning role is a riff on this type of character, except at the end of them movie he doesn't charm a girl. He charms a country.  

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.