Comments on watching and making films.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The King's Speech

World War 2 seems to be an endless gold mine for filmmakers, and, while The King's Speech takes place mostly before the war to end all wars, it is the shadow of that war that hangs over Tom Hooper's film about The Duke of York's succession to the throne, after the death of his father King George V, and the abdication of the throne by his brother, King Edward VIII, right around the time that Hitler invades Poland and war is declared.

The film begins in the 1920's. The future King George VI (Colin Firth) is still The Duke of York, and is asked by his father, King George V (Michael Gambon) to start taking over the duty of giving speeches as part of his obligation of "public service" that comes along with his lineage and title. He fails miserably at this because of a pronounced stutter that makes it almost impossible for him to speak. As the years go by, he attempts many cures, under the guidance of various doctors and professionals, but none of them work. His wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), who is now known as the Queen Mother (her daughter now using the moniker of Queen Elizabeth) seeks out help from a highly regarded speech therapist, Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush). Logue takes on the task, but not without pitfalls - Bertie, as George VI is known to his family, refuses to get to a personal level with Logue, something Logue insists on to take the therapy as far as it can go. But, with constant situations in his personal life and World War 2 on the horizon, Bertie will have no choice but to put his trust in Logue, in order to become the man that his country needs.

The King's Speech is one of those films that you can't say anything bad about. It's so tightly made, and has just the right amount of everything. Firth's stammering had to be an incredible acting feet to pull off realistically, because, if I didn't know better, I would just assume that was the way he talked. He's way to convincing, which, I suppose, means that he's doing his job. That director Tom Hopper and writer David Seidler treat these members of the monarchy with such respect, and yet, let them be human beings is what, I think, makes the whole film. There's a romance to the monarchy which they manage to balance with the realism of just being human. Some of my favorite parts of the film were when Logue manages to get Bertie to open up to him. You see this man's public facade break down, no more stone faced and official, and the emotion begins to seep out of him, and eventually pour out. When Bertie makes allusions to never having had any friends, and having been made fun of by his family, you genuinely feel his isolation, you essentially become Logue - cheering him on, hoping and praying he keeps making forward steps, and disheartened when he moves backwards. A moment that broke my heart was when Bertie is asked by his daughter, Margaret, to tell her and Elizabeth a story. You can see the fear in Bertie's eyes, but, as a father, he doesn't want to let them down. He stammers through a very short story, trying hard to be the father his two young girls need, and finally gets through it. You breath the same sigh of relief that I'm sure Bertie let out when he finally finished. There are so many of these moments in the film, and that seems rare these days, to have a character who you can so completely be behind. He's not an anti-hero, he's not a character with deep flaws, and he's not an underdog. He's just a man, trying to do his best and do what is right, trying to be a good husband, a good father, and a good leader, and learning, for the first time, that he can do all of these things, as he learns in parallel, that the stutter that has caused him so much pain in his life is something he CAN conquer.


zootcarey said...

Another great review Stewart, keep it coming. I miss Pauline.

Stewart said...

She was one of a kind...