Sunday, January 16, 2011
The King's Speech review
I saw The King's Speech last Friday and tried my best to just erase any and all expectations from my mind and just try to enjoy the film. You see, The King's Speech has gotten rave reviews across the board, critics calling Colin Firth a surefire Oscar winner and with people also saying that the film is likely to be the Oscar frontrunner.
Is it those things? Yes and no. Indeed, Colin Firth gives a great performance and it's hard to see otherwise. The man goes through the whole movie successfully portraying George VI as an honorable man with a stammering problem. The important thing is that he also gives King Geroge VI personality. To me, the problem with a lot of stuffy English films about English royalty is that... the kings or queens being portrayed just aren't interesting. But, much to the credit of Colin Firth and the screenplay, King George VI is actually quite down to earth and, oddly enough, relatable. The fact that King George VI goes through the whole film with this stammering problem, brings him down to earth. As much down to earth as a king could possibly be, of course.
As the story goes, the eventual King George VI, previously known as the Duke of York, has a stammering speech problem that seemingly is unfixable. Then his wife (played by Helena Bonham Carter) winds up hiring a speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), from Australia (who has his own speech therapy business in England), his unorthodox rules... at first unwelcomed by the soon king, eventually becomes the only method of learning for him. By the end, King George is unable to give a successful speech without him... and I use the word "successful" loosely.
The film is almost exclusively about King George's speech problem as well as the relationship between him and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. There's also the story of how his brother winds up becoming King Edward VIII only to be forced to relinquish this title when he winds up marrying a twice divorced woman from America. This subplot adds more depth to the story of the Duke of York eventually becoming (a reluctant) king and the impending start to World War II only amplifies King George's speech problem. The King is supposed to play a key role in bringing his country together in time of need. So communication is a really important role for the King especially since, overall, a King's role in England has been significantly diminished with the country turning into a Republic. Nevertheless, the King is still responsible for being the voice of the country and King George has a hard time being that voice. His one role, the one thing he has to do... he can't do it, not without the help of Lionel Logue. The relationship between him and his speech therapist is crucial for King George to wind up being a great king. Lionel Logue knows that King George can be a successful king which is why he's so driven to help him succeed.
So yes, The King's Speech is a really good film even if, in the end, the King's plight doesn't really seem as significant as the country's plight heading into World War II. This is a good film, but overall, it feels slight. While we're happy for the King when he winds up delivering his successful speech, which happened to be one of the most important speeches of his life, the meaning behind his speech was more important than the fact that he could give the speech. England would wind up in a very brutal war with Germany for many years to come so King George's speech difficulties seems to be the least of country's problems. So that's why this story, when you put it in historical context, ultimately feels light. It's a happy story for what would become a very dark times for the world.
Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter give solid performances in this movie. Carter proving she can actually act when Tim Burton isn't forcing her to ham it up. Tom Hooper also does an impressive job. While the film occasionally has some interesting visuals, Hooper understands that all he needs to do is present the story as straightforward as he can and the best thing he can do is to stay out of the way from that. But the only really great thing from the film is Colin Firth's performance. It proves that he is indeed a great actor and his Oscar will come and it will be well-deserved. I cannot say the rest of the film is as great, but I definitely recommend it.