Saturday, January 22, 2011


I wanted to like The King's Speech more than I eventually did.

It's that instinctive goodwill that comes from viewing an obviously critically lauded/award season frontrunner/boasting-of-great-pedigree movie. So I wanted to come out of the experience gushing about it. Instead, I came out merely pleased, somewhat content, which would make most movies a towering achievement honestly, but well, that's great expectations for you.

So here we have Colin Firth (absolutely, and expectedly, astonishing) playing the-then Duke of York, who in the opening sequence in 1925 sets out to address a crowd at Wembley. A tap of the microphone, a sharp intake of breath, he mutters the first few words, and then ... nothing. His mouth seizes up, the words are lost somewhere in his throat. The crowd looks on derisively, almost piteously, as the son of the king is unable to even make a salutary speech in public.

The Duke has by his side a wonderfully supportive wife - Helena Bonham Carter in a remarkably uncharacteristic role plays the eventual Queen Mother - who leads him to a succession of speech therapists, all of whom are unable to help.

And then the couple comes across Lionel Logue. As essayed by Geoffrey Rush, and impressively rounding out a great trio of central performances, Logue is brash, unconventional, and quite possibly the Duke's only hope. The stakes are raised when it looks like the Duke might just become the next King of England, and in the process be required to make some particularly impassioned speeches, even while down south in Germany, a short man with a toothbrush mustache is giving some very powerful speeches indeed. And so the stage is set for an inspirational, typically rousing, period drama,

Which honestly, is the only issue The King's Speech has - that it's predictable, that there's a paint-by-numbers feel threatening to come out of the woodwork, that it's got all the expected elements so firmly in place. If this sounds like nitpicking, well, I suppose it very much is - and yet I have to point this out to you to explain why I fell short of unabashedly loving this seemingly perfect piece of film-making.

Because, yes, its almost, just about perfect otherwise. The cinematography is casually stunning - 1930's London plays hide-and-seek with the mist,whil long tracking shots waltz with the King; the screenplay is often hilarious and alternately touching; the performances I will say nothing more about, but that 3 academy award nominations are a lock.

In the end, then, the speech that King George delivered was one of biding the country, the empire, towards hope in the darkest of times. That it is as much about his own personal triumph in being able to make that speech at all is the real power of the story.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, some say that the Academy has a big crush on the British monarchy, which is why any movie that stars half a monarch quickly gets nominated (Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth, Helen Mirren as Elizabeth, Dame Judi Dench... also as Elizabeth).