WARNING: NOT A BORING PERIOD PIECE
The King’s Speech
Review by Maria Markosov
Colin Firth can speak volumes with the smallest tick of a facial muscle or flicker of his eye, which comes in handy when he can’t actually speak. From “Pride and Prejudice” and on, we know Firth as the actor with the quiet charisma, teasing us as we wonder if, how and when he’ll break out of his shell. In his latest film, “The King’s Speech”, he eventually brings the house down with the help of his formidable costar, Geoffrey Rush. The interplay between these two in the movie is not only a master class in acting, but it is some of the most fun you’ll see in a movie.
Based on a true story, the movie begins around the time Queen Elizabeth’s father George VI is crowned King of England, taking over for older brother Edward as necessary to save Great Britain the scandal of Edward’s relationship with an American socialite divorcee. Rising to the occasion proves challenging, not only because this is 1937, they are in the midst of an economic depression, and all of Europe is in an uproar over the rising of the Nazi Regime in Germany. Sure, this is stressful stuff, but as it turns out, Edward’s little brother has a more pressing issue on his mind, a little s-s-s-sp-speech issue. He can barely string a sentence together without stuttering and stammering before reaching the end, sometimes never reaching it. What? No, no, no! This won’t do! He must give powerful speeches to the masses, rally the troops, and raise the spirits of England and Europe! But talking just isn’t his thang. And this is where the fun begins, where the wonderful character of Lionel Logue, a somewhat eccentric Australian speech coach, waltzes into the movie, thanks to the persistent search by George’s wife, and helps the newly crowned king find his voice.
As mentioned, Colin Firth throws it down as the king, unafraid to occasionally be unlikable when he succumbs to his fears and becomes temperamental. Geoffrey Rush is delightful in every way, portraying a character who always maintains his dignity and self. Unlike many screenwriters, David Seidler gives each character his/her own voice, rather than making every person sound the same. Helena Bonham Carter also delivers a precise performance as the King’s wife, showing both restraint and spunk when she needs it. Nice to see her do something outside of the gaunt-eyed, caked-makeup wild-haired haggish characters she’s been playing lately.
Guy Pearce plays George’s older brother, Edward VIII, though in real life, Pearce is younger. His best moment comes when he cruelly mocks Firth’s stutter. Edward’s love-interest Wallis is played by Eve Best whose weirdly spastic performance seems to indicate that she believes because she’s a divorced socialite she must appear loose and frivolous in company, making you wonder why Edward would be so obsessed with her. Other than this slightly off-note, all the performances in the movie are strong, including Michael Gambon as George V, who gets to utter the awesomely ironic line, “This family has been forced to become those lowest of creatures; we have become actors.”
This is not a boring period piece, did you try to sit through “The Young Victoria”? ‘Pretty’ does not a good period movie make. The characters are not stodgy wax pieces, but rather real people that we can relate to, with quirks and personalities and problems. And more importantly, the story is about a personal journey and a friendship between two people unlikely to have met under any normal circumstances. It’s timeless. And Tom Hooper was wise enough not to knock us over the head with period details which would force us to be more concerned with the shape of a teacup or curtain pattern rather than the theme of the story. He let the designers handle that. Rather his efforts were spent directing the actors and camera to emphasize story and theme and thankfully produced a movie with exceptional dramatic value.
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Release Date: November 26, 2010
Run Time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Bedlam Productions