Saturday 13 April 2013

A to Z - The King's Speech

At first glance, The King's Speech might not look like my 'kind of film'. Having said that, I will give most genres a try at least once (within reason, I still loathe musicals) and the presence of Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Guy Pearce and Geoffrey Rush swayed me into going to see this. Sufficeth to say, I absolutely loved it. It's the kind of heartwarming tale that you can't help but like, and that's in part due to the stellar performances by the extremely talented cast.

Colin "Mr Darcy" Firth plays George VI, or 'Bertie', the stammering Duke of York whose attempts at overcoming his problem just aren't working. Helena Bonham-Carter plays his wife, who went on to become the Queen Mother, who eventually enlists the help of Lionel Logue (Rush), an Australian chap whose methods have come highly recommended. His unorthodox approach breaks down the class boundary between him and Bertie, and you get a sense of a real camaraderie between the two. The entire film drives towards the big showdown, in which Bertie's final confrontation is essentially with himself as he faces giving his first wartime speech to the nation.

I had a lisp as a youngster, so I always find it easy to sympathise with characters who suffer from speech impediments (with the exception of Kripke in The Big Bang Theory - but I think he's supposed to be insufferable). But would I have sympathise with just anyone with a problem? I don't think so. Firth plays Bertie as being very human, subject to workplace anxieties and stress. Sure, not all of us have to deal with the problems associated with being a member of the Royal Family, but Bertie is in a position in which all the wealth and privilege in the world just won't help. In fact, I found I almost sympathised with him more for being a prince rather than having a speech impediment. We might look at the Royal Family and consider them everything from "idle scroungers" to whatever other epithet seems to be most offensive at the time, but imagine being born into an existence in which your life is not really your own, and you're not free to pursue the same dreams as everyone else. I'd hate it.

I've been a fan of Firth's since 1995, and that adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, and I always enjoy watching Bonham-Carter. It's particularly nice to watch her in a non-Burton role, where she actually gets to act instead of stomping around with big hair, screeching and emoting all over the place, and her likeness to the Queen Mother is unnerving. But really, the real star of the film is Rush, whose homely chatter and refusal to be cowed by Bertie's status is possibly what gets through to Bertie in the first place. Logue doesn't treat Bertie like a prince, so Bertie doesn't have to feel the weight of responsibility within Logue's office. He can just be Bertie. I was pleased to see at the end of the film that even when he became King, he remained friends with Logue. Just like he stole Pirates of the Caribbean from under the nose of Johnny Depp, so Geoffrey Rush steals The King's Speech.

Sure, it doesn't have monsters or fairytale creatures, but The King's Speech is a lovely little film, telling the story of one man's desire to overcome a simple, and very human, problem. I'll leave you with a clip of that magnificent speech.


John Wiswell said...

Rush made King's Speech for me. He even makes other actors on stage with him stronger, but all of his own material, from the smoking joke to silently willing the king to enunciate, are so well-hammered.

Tony Noland said...

I loved this movie. The main characters were wonderful, as you said, but I had to laugh out loud during the scene when Geoffry Rush is forced to introduce his wife to the King.

"My dear... I don't believe you've met His Majesty King George VI?"

What was hilarious about that is that Rush's wife is played by Jennifer Ehle, the actress who played Elizabeth Bennett in P&P, and who most certainly HAS met Colin Firth before. Seeing the two of them together again in such different roles was a hoot.

Bevimus said...

Eh-hem, now that the comment form is working, the real comment:
I also loved this movie. I love how it's one of the most uplifting movies I've ever seen, yet it's set in one of the darkest times of history. The acting was simply astounding, I totally think Colin Firth earned his Oscar, thought I agree that Geoffrey Rush earned his too and it's BS that he didn't get it. And I think this is the best Helena Bonham-Carter has ever acted, period.

Katherine Hajer said...

I loved this film, I really did -- if I recall correctly, I saw it at the theatres three times (once at a 90-year-old cinema that was once renamed after Bertie's brother before he abdicated). I think your post really hits the nail on the head as to why people liked it -- I know a lot of critics tried to dismiss it as "not being about anything" and basically failed.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm really glad everyone's enjoyed the film as much as I did!

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