KING'S SPEECH, THE
As the second son of George V (Michael Gambon), Prince Bertie (Colin Firth) is not ex-expected to ascend to the throne, but when his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) choses to abdicate to marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), Bertie is the rightful successor and in 1936 is crowned King George VI. Thrust into the international spotlight, he engages irreverent Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help him find a voice with which to lead the nation.
Review by Louise Keller:
Geoffrey Rush is bloody marvellous as the unorthodox royal speech therapist whose controversial methods include tongue twisters, singing the talk and swearing like a trooper. Certainly not the kind of language expected to extract from Colin Firth's stammering future King of England during their treatment sessions. It may not be quite in the class of The Queen, but there's much to enjoy as we peek behind the scenes of the dysfunctional English Royal Family for a great yarn.
The film begins in 1925, when we meet Firth's Duke of York Albert at his most insecure, stuttering his way through his first recorded speech broadcast. Prescribed smoking to relax the throat and a mouth full of marbles for enunciation do little to help, coupled with the inescapable pressures and expectations from within the family. There is Albert's ever-critical father King George V (Michael Gambon at his austere best) and taunting from brother Edward (Guy Pearce is excellent), who is at the whim of the indiscreet, twice divorced American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Eve Best, solid). It is Helena Bonham Carter's calm, down-to-earth wife, who provides Bertie, as he is known by those close to him, with unconditional support and who sheds her status like an unnecessary item of clothing to find Rush's Harley Street speech therapist Lionel Logue. Bonham Carter is superb, injecting great warmth and compassion into the character of the woman we would come to know as the Queen Mother.
Class distinction teeters like a wobbly see-saw as Lionel tries to find a balance between making and overstepping his mark. There are clashes about everything - where the sessions take place, the subject matter they discuss and even what Lionel calls his royal patient. (Lionel gets his way on all counts.) That first encounter between Lionel and Bertie, when Bertie lays down his unconventional modus operandi and pushes his royal student beyond his comfort zone is a terrific scene as is the development of their relationship. It is this relationship that forms the heart of the film, describing their awkward, combative initial meetings to the all-important and lengthy war-time speech, when Lionel conducts Bertie, as a conductor would his orchestra. Speaking of which, the Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms source music is beautifully integrated into Alexandre Desplat's splendid score.
There are many lovely scenes, like the one in which Bertie tells a bedtime story to his Princess daughters, the serious Elizabeth and fun-loving Margaret in the household that already shows its love for the royal corgi and is horse-mad. I also liked the scene when Lionel's wife (beautifully played by Jennifer Ehle) unexpectedly arrives home to find His and Her Majesty with her husband. Lionel has strictly honoured the code of patient confidentiality, even to his family. David Seidler's screenplay negotiates all the relationships and integrates them beautifully as the storyline reaches its ultimate climax. As Bertie, Firth gives a fine performance, albeit on occasions slightly mannered. Directed by Tom Hooper, this is a thoroughly enjoyable film, injected with humour and a fascinating insight into a little known aspect of history in which the King of England and a failed Australian actor form an unlikely bond.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Tom Hooper's historical drama is not so much about the history as about the unexpected and unlikely friendship forged between a Prince and an enterprising and unorthodox Australian on the eve of World War II. The development of that at first frosty relationship into a lasting and genuine friendship is the emotional arc of the film, and could have hardly been better performed than Colin Firth as Bertie the Prince and Geoffrey Rush the self-taught Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue, who picked up his craft when compelled to help soldiers back from the front from the previous war.
Firth is ideally cast partly because of his internalised acting style which suits this introverted and gummed up figure, and partly because he is such a fine actor he handles the profound stutter with minimal fuss and unexpected veracity. Rush relishes the role, an Australian who isn't a caricature and whose decency are the drivers and keys to his character.
The screenplay sticks to the central core of the story, with occasional glimpses into the Royal household's internal workings, especially around the controversial matter of Prince Edward (angularly played by Guy Pearce in a less than flattering characterisation) and his intention to marry the twice divorced American Wallis Simpson (stylishly portrayed by Eve Best).
Helena Bonham Carter is a likeable, warm and refreshingly unpretentious Elizabeth (later to be known as the Queen Mother) who loves and cares for her Bertie as he struggles to manage his flaw, unable to stutter a word to his hurtful brother. She is there for him when inevitably, Edward abdicates to marry Wallis forcing Bertie to accept the Crown as King George VI, terrified of having to make speeches to the nation as war looms.
The sheer audacity of the story is its best part; not only is Lionel Logue a commoner without formal qualifications, he is so self assured as to begin his relationship with his most prestigious patient by calling him Bertie, the name only Bertie's family is allowed to use. What's more, his methods are spectacularly unorthodox, ranging from physical exercises unbecoming an adult, never mind a Crown Prince, like mouth and face flubbering.
Derek Jacobi is amusingly solemn and officious as the Archbishop offended by Logue's proximity to the Crown, and all the minor supports are terrific. My only reservation is Timothy Spall, the useful English actor capable of handling almost anything ... except perhaps Winston Churchill, whom he portrays with a grimace worthy of Music Hall and weakly clutching a cigar. Michael Gambon, who has the short and thankless role of the dying King George V, might have been a better choice, with his role going to someone like Ian McKellen, perhaps.
But this is a small quibble in a film given its due by Alexandre Desplat's rich score and Eve Stewart's clever design, stylishly edited by Tariq Anwar. Given the deceptively slight material, this is a meaty and satisfying film.
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TOM HOOPER INTERVIEW
KING'S SPEECH, THE (M)
CAST: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon
PRODUCER: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
DIRECTOR: Tom Hooper
SCRIPT: David Seidler
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen
EDITOR: Tariq Anwar
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Eve Stewart
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2010