The King's Speech
I’m rarely at a loss for words. Often, my wife, family and friends wish I was. In school, the thing that got me in trouble most (and had me writing hundreds and hundreds of punishment sentences) was talking in class. I am one of those people who you should never ask a question of if you don’t really want an answer. It may not be the correct answer, but you’ll get one. And while the idea of public speaking fills me with dread and waves of nausea, I am able to string together coherent sentences despite the shaking of my legs. Some people are so overwhelmed with fear in such instances that they completely lock up and cannot utter a word. Most with this problem would avoid work requiring the very thing that causes this kind of fear, but when one is the king of England, such as in this week’s movie, “The King’s Speech,” a career change is impossible.
Albert (Colin Firth) is a British prince with a debilitating stammer that all but makes him unable to speak in public or during times of great stress. Despite the efforts of several respected speech therapists, Albert continues to have problems. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds a new therapist in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) whose methods are thought of as controversial. Despite his reservations, Albert sees Logue and the two do not hit it off. Logue has Albert read lines from a Shakespeare play while wearing headphones that are playing music. Logue records Albert reading and gives him the recording, but Albert doesn’t intend on coming back for more therapy. Some time later when Albert hears the recording, he hears himself reading clearly and without a stammer. Perhaps Logue knows what he’s doing. Albert’s brother Edward (Guy Pearce) ascends the throne upon the death of their father King George V (Michael Gambon), but King Edward VIII abdicates the throne less than a year later to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). Faced with being crowned king and the increased aggression of Hitler in Germany leading Europe into war, Albert, now King George VI, needs Logue’s help to overcome his stammer even more.
“The King’s Speech” is surprisingly entertaining despite an obvious lack of car chases, explosions, fist fights and blood. Watching people talk to each other for nearly two hours would be considered a form of torture for most people; but the things these people say, and the backdrop of history, makes “The King’s Speech” a fascinating movie.
Colin Firth is fantastic as Albert, or Bertie as some in his family call him. His winning of the Academy Award for best actor is as close to a sure thing as you can get. Firth is sometimes pitiful, locked in his prisons of both stammering and royalty. Firth plays the role as a man trapped by circumstances into being someone he isn’t. While the character has been trained since birth to be the embodiment of Britain, Albert just wants to be a normal man who can tell his children a bedtime story without halting and stuttering. The dread in Albert’s face as he approaches a microphone to give a speech at the film’s opening is juxtaposed against a professional announcer for the BBC as he prepares, dressed in a tuxedo, gargling and spraying his throat, to read a brief opening. The tension builds within Albert as he approaches the mic and it all plays on Firth’s face. His early scenes with Logue also show us a man protecting himself and his position from intrusion by a commoner and the later scenes give us the man facing his fears and opening up to another person in a way he’s never been allowed to do. All the emotions Firth displays in his performance never feel forced or inappropriate because he completely embodies this man who would rather be anywhere else but upholds his obligation to his position. It’s a brilliant piece of work.
Geoffrey Rush is more than able to hold his own as Logue. Unwilling to bend to the demands of the monarchy, Logue, a proud Australian, teaches lessons to the future king the same way he would to anyone else. Rush has a playful look that makes him one of the most interesting people to watch on screen. His character’s willingness to make Albert angry to prove a point and to teach a lesson displays a level of courage that most wouldn’t have when dealing with a member of royalty. Rush gives Logue a “damn the protocol, full steam ahead” attitude and it makes for an interesting combination that eventually leads to friendship.
The rest of the cast is perfect in their roles as well with Helena Bonham Carter’s Elizabeth as the supportive, dutiful wife who is both formal and playful. Guy Pearce plays King Edward VIII as a love struck teenager, enamored more with Wallis Simpson than the British crown. Edward is shown as immature and more than willing to be cruel to his younger brother over his speech problem. Derek Jacobi is the Archbishop of Canterbury who takes his position as advisor to the throne very seriously and seems himself as a person with more power than he actually possesses. All the cast does amazing work bringing to life a little known moment in history.
“The King’s Speech” is rated R for language. As part of his therapy, Albert cusses a blue streak in part of the movie, dropping S-bombs and F-bombs along with British colloquial curses that won’t make much sense to an American audience. There’s also a great deal of smoking if that’s troubling to you.
While it may not be the most pulse-pounding movie you ever see, “The King’s Speech” is still exciting in its own way. It tells a story about an uncommon friendship while it gives the audience a glimpse into a lifestyle that none of us will ever know. The film is sweet, sad, funny and uplifting. Give it a chance and you might be surprised by how much you like it as well.
“The King’s Speech” gets five guitars.
This week a historical actioner, a rom-com, an animated kids flick and Beiber fever all hit theatres. Vote for the film I see and review next.
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Never Say Never--The story of teen pop idol Justin Bieber, chronicling his meteoric rise to stardom alongside real-life 3D concert footage.
Stan’s Choice--Stan sees and reviews any movie currently in theatres.
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