Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review: The King's Speech

The King's Speech (2010)

Having a pronounced stammer can be a problem, but when you're second in line to the throne of England during the first decade of wireless, it's a nightmare.

In The King's Speech, we're introduced to Prince Albert "Bertie", the Duke of York and future King George VI, who has a stammer so bad that public speaking is almost impossible for him.  It's the mid 1930s.  King George V is nearing the end of his life, the Prince of Wales puts his love life before his duty, and Hitler is on the march.  Bertie, regarded by most people, including himself, as unfit for the throne, tries to fulfill his duty as a member of the Royal family. Unfortunately, this involves public speaking both in person and over the new medium of radio, but his stammer is so severe that he's unintelligible.  In order to rectify this "mechanical" problem, Bertie employs the services of an unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue, whose methods require Bertie to get to the psychological root of the problem and open himself up in a way the he's never allowed himself to do before.  The two men's often combative relationship grows into a tumultuous friendship as Bertie must deal with the death of his father, his brother's abdication, and his own unwanted ascension to the throne.  Though there is some progress made in controlling his speech impediment, will it be enough  when the newly crowned King George VI must go on the wireless to rally his people at the outbreak of the Second World War?

Based on the true story of George VI, The King's Speech is well deserving of the Oscars that it snatched up.  Colin Firth looks and sounds nothing at all like George VI, but he still manages to come across in an utterly convincing manner as the dutiful, yet insecure Prince.  Geoffrey Rush as Logue is a perfect match in casting and the two of them have a powerful chemistry that makes one wish that this had been produced as a two-man play.  Even Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth wins praise for her first performance in over a decade when she doesn't come across as bat-**** crazy.  The screenplay by David Seidler manages to tie together the events of the day with Bertie's own growing role, yet keeps the whole thing anchored by the friendship between the ruler of history's greatest empire and a "nobody" speech therapist.  He also sets the stakes for the titular speech that is the climax of the film, though British audiences over the age of forty may have the best appreciation for this.

The King's Speech is an altogether satisfying drama, though it is also somewhat bittersweet in that it is a marvelous portrait of England before the claws of Socialism, political correctness, multiculturalism, and the 1960s had a chance to sink into the nation.  It is a world of patriotism, duty, deference, and tradition melded with the fruits and hazards of progress.  It is a time when gravitas was prized, when there were statesmen as well as politicians, and despite the harrowing menaces of Fascism and Communism, the civilised world still had confidence in itself.  It is an England that seems to have faded to an ember in the 21st century, but perhaps one that has not died out yet.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, play; I could totally see this as a play, and reaching a new audience. This is a masterful script and I honestly was doubtful going in that I would enjoy it since I hate most dramas. The triumphant ending and artful acting made me remember each scene with vivid detail. I saw it in HD on my DISH Network employee receiver and honestly I was very impressed with the directing and how realistic it looked for the period it was set in. DISH has many movies in HD to choose from too on ( as well.