Monday, January 3, 2011

The King's Speech

March 2011 Lamplighter review As a young man in grade school, I participated in sports and theater and before a sporting event or a live performance I would naturally get butterflies in my stomach. However, my stomach never turned in knots quite as much as it did before I was to present my speech at the annual oratory contest held each year. The King’s Speech, the wonderful and acclaimed film out of England, is essentially about this fear of public speaking that most of us hold. Only the protagonist is the King of England who holds a debilitating stammer and his audience is the entire British Empire.
            The film opens with Albert (Colin Firth) addressing a crowd at the behest of his father the King. As he stutters and stammers his way through, eventually giving up, his loving wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) looks on with sorrow. Wanting to help him and sick of quack doctors, she sees an ad for a speech therapist and decides to seek him out. Travelling by herself to the basement of a commoner’s flat, she finds the wonderfully named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) whom she hires to treat her husband with his unconventional matters. The bond formed by the two men, though strained at first, provides the heart of the movie and some of its best and most touching scenes.
            Of all its accolades, I think the foremost one to address is the acting. Colin Firth is astonishing in what seems to be an impossible part, and seeming pulls it off naturally. Helena Bonham Carter, often thought of as playing crude characters, superbly plays the understated role of what many of us today know as the recently passed Queen Mother. Geoffrey Rush is pitch perfect as the unorthodox Lionel, who approaches Albert as an equal and finds himself sympathizing and befriending him. Michael Gambon and Guy Pearce are fine as well in bit parts, as Albert’s father George V and his older brother King Edward who abdicated the throne.
            The direction by Tom Hooper is highly original and the cinematography wonderfully captures what are mostly interiors (although there is a magnificently filmed scene where Firth and Rush stroll through the park). The use of close-up is effective as well, particularly in one scene where Albert discusses the pains of growing up with a stammer. The title speech at the end of the film is wonderful as well. The King’s Speech is that rare kind of film where you find your brain spewing out all sorts of positive adjectives. After I was leaving the theater, I had to force myself to stop.

1/31/11 review I saw The King's Speech again today and maintain that it is the film of the year. This time around, in addition focusing on the great performances of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, I was able to better appreciate the supporting performances of Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce. Also, something I may not have touched upon before is the wonderful cinematography that beautifully captures that colorful palettes in both deep focus and close-up. Director Tom Hooper does a wonderful job and I encourage people to seek this film out. It is a rich film with something in it for everyone.

1/3/11 review The King's Speech is one of those superior entertainments where. as you watch, you find your brain spewing out positive adjectives. It tells the story of England's George VI on the verge of becoming King after his brother's abdication of the throne. There is one small problem although: The soon-to-be monarch speaks with a debilitating stammer which makes public speaking unbearable. His wife, sick of dealing with the usual quacks in treating her husband, seeks the help of an unorthodox Australian whose methods seem to help but at the same time distance George. Starring Colin Firth as the King, Geoffrey Rush as Lionel the Speech Therapist, and Helena Bonham-Carter as George's wife this is an actor's showcase, wonderfully directed by Tom Hooper, and surely one of the year's best.