The King’s Speech
THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)
Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Max Callum, James Currie, Claire Bloom and Eve Best.
Screenplay by David Seidler.
Directed by Tom Hooper.
Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 118 minutes. Rated R.
Going just from the basic description of The King’s Speech – the King of England must overcome a stammering problem in order to gain his people’s faith – it sounds like it will be a kind of stodgy, dull Masterpiece Theater type of spectacle.
Luckily, that is not the case. The King’s Speech actually has a sly humorous vein underneath all the pomp and circumstances. Yes, it is an arty movie custom made for Oscar gold, but it can also be enjoyed as a feel-good personality-driven underdog drama.
Also, it is much funnier than you would guess.
The King’s Speech takes a look at a semi-forgotten chapter of not-all-that-distant history: the short-lived monarchy of Britain’s King George VI, a smart but insecure royal who suffered from a debilitating speech defect, a persistent stammer which made public speaking painful.
This was a bearable problem when he was a Prince, but when he is coronated – and soon afterwards has to rally the country in the fight against Nazi Germany – a certain amount of confidence and suavity is necessary.
Therefore, his loving wife (Helena Bonham Carter) – playing a character who would grow to be the Queen Mother – decides to find a speech therapist to help her husband get over the condition once and for all.
She ends up finding Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) – who is not a doctor, but an aspiring actor. Logue has some offbeat techniques and demands, against protocol, that in their dealings he and the royal be complete equals. The King fights him every inch of the way, but eventually they form a friendship and help to improve the King’s speaking voice.
The film is beautifully shot and features some amazing acting by many of Britain’s biggest talents. It is also much more involving than you might expect, and as said before often anarchically funny. One of the most humorous moments was a long scene where the King finally breaks through on his stutter by being instructed by Logue to curse, which he starts politely but then eventually gaining gusto and cursing like a sailor.
This scene also apparently single-handedly gained this film its R rating, because there is nothing in this film that is in the least bit objectionable – that scene included, by the way.
However, The King’s Speech is a droll and smart historical drama which is extremely well-written and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Not to say that the script here is on the level of The Social Network – which at this point appears to be The King’s Speech’s prime competition for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. Honestly, the movie as a whole is not as good, either.
However, The King’s Speech is more pleasant, with more traditionally upbeat and Academy-friendly characters and the movie will likely end up the victor.
While this is not probably the most justified conclusion, The King’s Speech is artistic and well-made enough that it will merely be a slight disservice, not a horrible affront.
The King’s Speech is eminently worthy of praise, even if it does not deserve it quite as much as The Social Network. This film is nonetheless a wonderful example of smart and classic filmmaking. The fact that it is old-fashioned rather than cutting edge, hopeful rather than cynical, uplifting rather than downbeat – that is hardly the filmmakers’ problem, in fact it is their intention. The Academy will almost always celebrate sincere artistry over the cutting edge.
So, bully for The King’s Speech. It will probably win Best Picture. And while it may not be the best picture – actually, of the ten films nominated, The King’s Speech is only fourth or fifth best – it’s still damned good. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 13, 2011.