Film review of the Oscar winning drama starring Colin Firth as King George VI and how a speech therapist helped him overcome a stammer.
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Set during and after the abdication crisis of 1936, the newly crowned King George VI (Firth) faces a crisis of his own. He has a fear of public speaking, exacerbated by a long-standing stammer. Hired to help him overcome this is unorthodox Australian Lionel Logue, a ham actor and self-styled speech therapist. The King is further encouraged by his patient wife Queen Elizabeth (Bonham-Carter) to find a voice worthy of a monarch and it is tested by several key national radio broadcasts during World War II.
Review, by Jason Day
I’m going to go out on a limb here (and also prepare to dodge any loose items that might be hurled in my general direction), as a critic must do from time to time, and say I didn’t like The Kings Speech that much.
Shock! Gasp! Orf with his head!
To repeat (above the din of approbrium), I really didn’t like The King’s Speech that much.
Shock and gasp – how could I, how could anyone, hate the film that scooped every major (and quite a few obscure) international film awards this year, saw Colin Firth hailed as quite possibly the finest actor of his generation (winning an Oscar in the process) and single-handedly revitalise the British film industry with bumper box office ticket sales world-wide (and much needed too, since the abolishment of the UK Film Council)?
Firstly, let me clarify – I certainly didn’t hate The King’s Speech. Far from it in fact, as this film is too decent, inoffensive and inspiring to ever be hated. Which is also the reason why one might not warm to it, particularly after such a mega-hyped run on the silver screen. Speech might have gone down better (at least in this critic’s eyes) if the ridiculous Weinstein Bros. (they are Executive Producers) publicity junket hadn’t forced a sweet little film about one man’s struggle against a physical affliction to punch too high above its weight and consequently disappoint.
For disappointment, one does not refer to the performances, garlanded as they are with BAFTAs, Oscars, ensemble awards et al. Firth leads a mightily impressive cast and richly deserved all of the plaudits he received for a turn that, with subtlety and flair, cuts deep into the physical tics and laboured speech and eruption of volcanic fury of a man frustrated by his own shortcomings. He goes far beyond the mere impersonation that you would expect from the portrayal of a real-life person.
Despite being overshadowed in the less physically noticable role, Rush is of equal note as the thorn in the King’s side and he revels in Logue’s class/power games with his social superior, jumping at the chance to further up the humour ante.
Writer Seidler is at his most playful, witty and wily during their scenes together and this is when Speech really finds its fire and comes alive. But this is also, perversely, where the disappointment rapidly sinks in.
Seidler could have pushed so much further with this battle of wills between the two men, Logue relishing the opportunity to bring a man of such distinction and influence down to the lowest level in order to speak (the simplest of tasks for him, a mere commoner), but chickens out to focus instead on the beauty of majesty and the rather tired political fighting behind the scenes as his playboy brother (Pearce) gives up the crown to shack up with that infamous American tart. The meaty stuff is quickly dispatched with to take another look inside a splendid building or impressive cathedral.
More fool this critic for being giddily led up the garden path by the deceiving trailers that promised a perhaps too furtive mind to imagine a different film.
Bonham-Carter manages (just about) to retain her professional dignity playing a woman who had too much dignity by half and who could never be portrayed as anything other than a delicate, saintly type who tilted her head too much to one side (presumably to show off those lovely Norman Hartnell hats). Pearce, Ehle, Andrews and, especially, Gambon as a grumpy King George V, all add a dash of grit to the smaller roles.
In all, this is still an impressive, immaculately produced speech, well worth a listen to and pooh to the detractors who complained the film lacks historical accuracy.
Cast & credits
Director: Tom Hooper. 119mins. See-Saw Films/Weinstein Co./UK Film Council et al. (12a)
Producers: Iain Canning, Gareth Unwin, Emile Sherman.
Writer: David Seidler.
Camera: Danny Cohen.
Music: Alexandre Desplat.
Sets: Eve Stewart.
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom.