Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
Living up to its name from the moment Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) ululates the sorrows stemmed by her repression, “Speechless” is an empowering power ballad that takes audiences’ collective breath away by its relevance. Young girls and boys will watch the reprisal sequence and be moved by the courageousness of Jasmine’s resolve to reclaim her agency. The lyrics illuminate how women are often dismissed, even in positions of assumed political authority. In light of the recent “Me Too” movement, Jasmine rejecting her imposed silence is all the more resonant. Furthermore, the song subverts the unspoken sacrificial duties of past Disney princesses – “The Little Mermaid’s” Ariel in literal fashion –supporting a man’s destiny by essentially abandoning their own independence, ergo “voice.”
Recent Oscar songwriting champs Justin Paul and Benj Pasek partnered with eight-time Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken to create this new showstopper for Guy Ritchie’s live-action “Aladdin.” The ballad brings Jasmine’s character arc to a shattering crescendo that bolsters her sovereignty by way of respect. The kindness instilled in her at an early age by her late mother, the Queen of Agrabah, transcends to her people. In this case, it’s the kingdom’s most trusted soldier, Hakim (Numan Acar), who hears Jasmine’s plea by song’s end that honor and good prevail over duty. There are many Oscar-contending songs each year that focus on hitting the airwaves, but “Speechless” has deeper goals. The tune propels the plot by allowing Jasmine to self-reflect through song, whereby she finds the courage to cut through the palace mutiny with vociferous protest.
The ballad also gives us a stunning glimpse of Jasmine as future sultan of Agrabah, one who never bows down to tyranny and evil no matter the odds. Naomi Scott’s fiery rendition obliterates any modicum of self-doubt Jasmine might have had, revealing a heroine whose voice is mightier than any sword, magic, or dagger wielded by her adversaries. The shock wave of female grit channeled by Naomi Scott replicating this performance on the Dolby Theatre stage is worth the price of nomination alone. When it comes to breaking against long-established gender barriers, this song stands among the best in the Disney songbook.
While the competition might be stacked, “Speechless” is the defining element of the “Aladdin” re-imagining that improves upon the original 1992 animated classic. Not only does the track provide Jasmine with her own arc entirely separate from the predestined love interest and title hero, but it evolves a childhood icon for a new generation. In addition to Jasmine’s inquisitive and rebellious nature, she is also a woman who cares for her nation and has the ambition to oversee its growth and safety. Through this ballad, Jasmine uses the platform of song to escape the bonds of tradition and forge a career path never given to her. Even better, she never asks for permission to do right by Agrabah.