A blog about movies and filmmaking.

THE KING’S SPEECH

In drama on December 25, 2010 at 11:10 am

I don’t think there’s been a more endearing representation of a stutterer on-screen since Porky Pig; and he wasn’t in the position of the King of England, who had to repeatedly speak to his people through radio addresses and live engagements. (The pig got off light.) But, THE KING’S SPEECH, isn’t so kind to King George VI. A man who was thrown into the throne, faced the oncoming of a second World War, and had to deal with a surly Australian that not only wanted the stammerer to speak, but to speak about personal things.

It’s this sly twisting and turning of a movie that could have been very boring, that makes The King’s Speech one of the best movies of 2010.

The movie starts with extreme close ups of a 1920’s style microphone setup in a small cubicle; a man appears and prepares for broadcast, then announces that the Duke of York is about to address a British Exhibition at Wembley. The Duke of York, or Prince Albert, or Bertie, as we learn is in-fact the titular (future) king that the movie will be about. So, as he steps up to the mic, we get the first taste of what this man’s biggest nemesis will be. His inability to speak. Cut forward a number of years and we meet the rest of Albert’s family – his father, the king (Michael Gambon); his brother Edward (Guy Pearce), who will abdicate the throne for “love”; his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), who is fully behind her husband; and tons of other familiar historical names and well-regarded actors’ faces.

Albert, himself, is played by Colin Firth, in a magnificent performance that runs the gamut of being silly (is it bad to say I laughed at some of his misfortune?), sympathetic, and in some cases entirely defeating. His one chance at dealing with this affliction is the Australian actor – slash – speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Played by Geoffrey Rush, he is a man who oversteps his boundaries; especially in regard to his interactions with royalty (which gets him in trouble a number of times). These two actors are award worthy for every single thing they can be nominated for. Firth, brilliantly brings to life the difficulties attributed to this disorder. It never comes off as him playing at being a stutterer. There are moments of true frustration and sadness as this man struggles with the roadblock that’s keeping him from speaking to and for his people.

Rush, who in almost every role has a sort of “puckish” gleam in his eye, is sarcastic, brutal, endearing, and absolutely brilliant in his role as the speech therapist. He has no qualms about speaking “truth to power”, and in-fact insists that he be allowed to call the king by his family’s pet name (Bertie). He treats stuttering as a psychological disorder – not as just someone who won’t enunciate – and it’s there that he’s able to really get through to his patients. We also get to see how it’s not all peaches and cream for him though. There’s a number of times where we see him not on his high-horse, but always willing to carry on.

The rest of the cast – and a very special mention to Timothy Spall, who plays Winston Churchill, in only a number of scenes – completely won me over. Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop – who really reads as the main opponent to both the king and especially to Logue – is fantastic in the role. And all the people I mentioned above, as Albert’s family, shine in their minor roles on-screen. Bonham Carter, whose known for her more outlandish – if not more peculiar – performances (just this year in ALICE IN WONDERLAND), is fairly restrained and proper. Pearce, who plays Edward as a sort of common dandy, was a welcome surprise – which I’ve now ruined for all of you, as I had no idea he was in the movie. (Sorry.) As well as Gambon, who with probably the least amount of screen-time, presents the biggest character. They’re all full of wit, great timing – even when that timing is drawn out over numerous gulps and stalls in their speech – and completely endearing.

All this to say, this is a movie about people. It’s characters. It’s performers. Even the people behind the camera (writer David Seidler; director Tom Hooper; music by Alexandre Desplat; cinematographer Danny Cohen); this is a showcase of what people can do. Which leads me to the main thing I took from the movie, that while there will always be kings and subjects, people of higher esteem and lower classes; it doesn’t always mean any one of them is actually any better than the other. In The King’s Speech, we see a king afraid of – if not distraught with – the pressures put on his shoulders. How he deals with them, and how he still needs to rely on others for support. On the opposite side of the scale; a commoner, who is given the not too light task of trying to cure a king of something none of his much more, well paid physicians could. And how his approach could be considered treasonous in some aspects and just bad form in others. But they’re just people, and we’re all delicate at some time.

You may have noticed that I’ve not really described much of what actually happens in the movie. But, there’s not really much more story to convey; the movie is mostly about these two men (Prince Albert and Lionel) trying to overcome their afflictions. There are royal galas, family time, coronations and even a montage or two, but what the movie really comes down to is the king rolling around on the floor and cussing a lot. Mostly at Lionel. And it’s magnificent.

So go, wherever you can, and see this wonderful movie. It’s uplifting, it’s history in a can (there’s a tie in to a pun there); and won’t leave you bored for a moment.

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