Review No. 408
The Bottom Line: I highly recommend this p-p-picture…“the letter ‘P’ is always difficult.”
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Screenplay by: David Seidler
King George VI: Colin Firth
Lionel Logue: Geoffrey Rush
Queen Elizabeth: Helena Bonham Carter
King Edward VIII: Guy Pearce
King George V: Michael Gambon
Winston Churchill: Timothy Spall
Myrtle Logue: Jennifer Ehle
Archbishop Cosmo Lang: Derek Jacobi
Also Starring: Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom, Eve Best, Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez, Roger Hammond, Tim Downie
Distributed by the Weinstein Company on December 24, 2010. Produced in English by the United Kingdom. Runs 118 mins. Rated R by the MPAA for some language.
The King’s Speech was watched on February 1, 2013.
“Waiting for me to… commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait.” –King George VI (Colin Firth)
King George VI stammered, not only when he was nervous, but even when speaking to those of lesser authority, or reading a bedtime story to his daughters. This is what plagued his very existence, and his power as the Duke of York. After absolutely bombing his address to the entire country, the king-to-be seeks help from a speech therapist—any speech therapist—and they all introduce some of the worst, most ineffective methods imaginable. He’s now given up all hope, not willing to trust even the greatest therapist in the country. Worse, the therapist begins his sessions by insisting on calling His Majesty the Patient “Bertie” (his full name is Albert Frederick Arthur George), a nickname penned and kept only inside his family. But will this be the man who decides whether the patient—or impatient, if you will—can venture beyond his agoraphobia, and rid his horrible impediment?
I’m a sucker for the British cinema. It’s something that, in an American’s eyes, is constantly achieving the impossible. Brits are so witty with their brilliant, beautiful use of language; so much that they can produce dramas that can warrant as many tears as chortles. And The King’s Speech is a prime example. It is clever, but it’s not a comedy. It’s a rather serious, ultimately uplifting drama. Note the difference in American cinema. We seem to love slapstick, for whatever reason. Such comedians begin at Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler, but God only knows where the long stream will terminate. I’ll admit, Sandler has starred in Punch-Drunk Love, and Carrey in The Truman Show, but it’d take a lot of effort to assert them as non-comedic dramas.
The 2010 Oscars were marked by several outstanding nominations for Best Picture. True Grit, Inception, and The Social Network were each stunning in their respective rights; perhaps if I were to give any of those a watch right now, one or two fleeting, hairline flaws could hinder an easy “A-plus.” Not for The King’s Speech. The film is flawless, as far as I can see. Director Tom Hooper knows how to arrange everything from musicians to cinematographers to screenwriters. There’s much claustrophobic tension to illustrate such fears experienced by “Bertie.” It’s a three-act play in which the king is the lead, the entire audience is staring down at him from the balcony, and the incidentals are selections by Beethoven. The writer of it all (David Seidler) is, in fact, a stutterer (see footnote), which adds even more authenticity and constriction to the tone.
What’s most amazing about The King’s Speech is how well-intended and -realized it is. I’ve seen it three times, and each time I begin picturing it less and less as a historical account. In my mind, it’s a parable about conquering fear. It’s common in all humans. If this were meant to be a historical projection, the screenplay would encapsulate King George VI’s entire life, not just a minor threshold. If this were meant to be historically accurate, not so much of it would have been dramatized, and there would have been chosen an actor that bore more resemblance to the King. Instead, Colin Firth disappears into his stammer. When the production schedule for The King’s Speech ended, I hear, Firth needed a speech therapist of his own to push away the stammer he had acquired as a result of ingenious method acting.
Footnote: Seidler expressed on a few occasions that his stammer is perhaps a result of experiencing grief at a young age: both his parents were victims of the Holocaust. The one scene in The King’s Speech that suggests this is a climactic moment in which “Bertie” and his family are watching a video of Adolf Hitler speaking. “What’s he saying?” asks one of the King’s daughters. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but…he seems to be saying it rather well.”