The King’s Speech Short Review (2010)
I think the best indicator about how much I liked this movie was the fact that I didn’t want it to end. Intelligent, funny, dramatic, visually perfect… It’s one of those rare films that at least seem flawless. Make no mistake about it, this is NOT a quiet little British flick that might be good on DVD or Blue Ray on a rainy day or night. This is a big screen film.
The story is straightforward, but not without a heavy dose of complications. Colin Firth plays Prince Albert, the Duke of York, who has quite the stammer. The film opens in 1925 with Albert preparing to give a speech (to a quarter of the world’s population) at Wembley Stadium.
He flounders to an uncomfortable degree. The years following he sees a number of ‘experts’ who try to assist with his speech problem, but it’s one failure after another. He finally has enough and gives in to his fears that he’ll never be cured.
His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), seeing that he has possibly given up all hope, goes behind her husband’s back and sees a speech therapist with radical but proven methods. I believe this happens in 1934.
There are several reasons why Albert HAS to overcome his heavy stammer. One is the rise of Hitler in Germany. As the years pass, the UK finds itself on an inevitable path to war. Another is that Albert’s overbearing father, King George V, becomes gravely ill. Albert’s brother is next in line to be King, but… again, see the film. If you know your history surrounding the British role in WW II, then you’ll probably know everything that happens, anyway. It is interesting to see how things played out behind the scenes, though.
Much of the attention will go to the two main protagonists, each with their own vastly different story, outlook and agenda. Colin Firth plays a very complicated individual and not just in his core beliefs, loyalties, fears and values. There are times when he must have the stammer in varying degrees, depending on his mood and the situation.
There are times when his character is not completely likable. There are also instances where he’s called on to have the stammer, yet conceal it to some degree. Sometimes when actors portray characters that have speech problems, they are not always believable to my ear. Firth’s Albert sounds genuine in his struggle to speak ‘normally’. He is nuanced and doesn’t perform in an obvious way that other big name actors might have played this.
Geoffrey Rush as Lionel is also brilliant. There’s even a moment or two where you might suspect that he himself has had to overcome the same kinds of problems that Albert faces. It’s never said (at least I didn’t hear it) and it was VERY subtle, so I do wonder if they intended that or not. I’m betting they did.
His character does indeed have a large playbook of radical methods to help the Prince. He also acts as psychiatrist along the way to get to the root causes. The speech therapy depicted in the film is very methodical and well done.
Rush is great in everything he’s in, practically and this is as good as anything else I’ve seen him in. He’s just a great actor. It’s a little funny that in the film his character is a part-time actor and he has to portray ‘bad acting’. He even does that well, portraying the level of ability as from an intelligent and competent man, yet not quite polished as Rush himself is.
I enjoyed many of the other characters in the film, but none of them are featured nearly as much as I thought that they would be. Helena Bonham Carter is more prim in this than a lot of the darkly alluring roles that she’s appeared in and is known for. She also displays extensive refinement in this and there are moments where her character says and acts in a way that requires the viewer to read into her own docket.
Guy Pearce turns up in the film as Albert’s brother Edward VIII. His character is far more confident than Firth’s and is shown to be rather cruel to him at times. His somewhat scandalous actions in the film playa vital role in creating pressure for Firth’s character.
Another character that probably won’t get much attention is Timothy Spall as one of my own heroes: Winston Churchill. I do think there have been better portrayals of Churchill, but Spall did a good job. It was nearly distracting for me each time he made an appearance. Picking out the guy he replaced, Neville Chamberlain was fun, too.
The sets were utterly spectacular. I think there were a few moments where I picked out some CGI backgrounds, but I think I’m just getting better at that, not that the filmmakers did a bad job. The vast interiors HAVE to be seen on the big screen to truly appreciate them.
I was unsure of whether I cared to see this or not. I’m glad that I decided to take it in, earlier this afternoon. It was worth it. I laughed. I enjoyed it. I might have even ‘welled up’. I had had trouble deciding which film to put at the top of my 2010 ‘best of’ list. I no longer have to ponder that. This is clearly the best movie I’ve seen that was made/released in 2010. Just a damn good film.