Sunday, February 13, 2011

The King's Speech

This Records You

There is word that the Weinsteins want a different cut to be released later this month that's sans the plenty of swearing, so thank heavens we get to watch it right now before it gets unceremoniously molested by its own producers. Doing that will diminish the film I suppose, since it takes away what I thought would be one's natural propensity to curse when things don't really go our way or according to plan. It may not seem royal, but heck, we're all humans after all. Needless to say the hype surrounding this is of its recent win at the Golden Globes amongst others during this awards season, and having to garner the most nominations means all eyes will be on this film wherever it goes. And it's simply delightful, pure and simple.

Interest is always high on the British monarch and the next big thing on the agenda is the wedding ceremony between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The countless of biographies available make natural adaptation into compelling films, from more period The Other Boleyn Girl to the two Elizabeth films by Shekhar Kapur and even something more contemporary such as Stephen Frear's The Queen. These films are deeply rooted in familiar history as they snapshot a period of time during the respective monarch's reign, not to mention the characters that come and go during the period, both famous and infamous. In The King's Speech, I'm rather surprised that the many subplots put in were purposeful, and tells a bigger story about how King George VI ascended the throne due to circumstances, rather than just a story that's obsessively focused on his speech issues.

Played by Colin Firth, King George VI before he became King of England in the late 30s, was the Duke of York whose inability in speaking publicly because of his stammer meant being kept under wraps and outshone by his brother, the heir apparent to the throne (Guy Pearce), and much to the disappointment of their father King George V (Michael Gambon) since the former is deep in controversy himself, having to consort with a commoner who's soon to be twice divorced (Wallis Simpson, played by Eve Best). It's actually because of this abdication that the current royal lineage is where it's at now, and for the uninitiated, here's that bit of historical trivia for you since this film goes back four generations and has plenty of character cameos such as Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) during his pre-Prime Ministership days.

No thanks to the advancement of radio and broadcast technology that had inevitably shamed the big man in public, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter) persistently sets her husband up with doctors to cure him of his impediment, only for her efforts to finally reach Lionel Logue (Rush), a speech therapist whose methods are most unorthodox, although his results speak for themselves. But like in any teacher-student relationship, success all depends on the efforts and determination of the student, and this isn't easy when someone is of a higher social standing than oneself, and believes in that standing from time to time coupled with an impatiently fiery temper borne out of countless of frustrating years.

Two big reasons why you must absolutely watch The King's Speech - Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Two of some of the best in the business outside of America, they give pitch perfect performances and share that slick chemistry to make their characters' relationship, from mentor to student, healer to the ill, royalty and subject, and finally friends, all the more delightful to sit through that progress. It's a solid story on frienship, and David Seidler's tale covers amazing ground in its narrative space, going both both breadth and depth, with nice little reveals at appropriate times to bring about some emotional power punches, be it Lionel's wife Myrtle (Jennifer Ehle) stumbling upon her VIP guests, or that conversation between experience and paper qualifications, something I think which will hit home here as well.

Firth makes his stammer believable and you feel sorry for him being thrust into the limelight when he's really not ready for it, worried to bungle it up and to become an embarassment to his nation. It is this fighting of his own personal battle that becomes a beacon and an inspiration to his subjects and countrymen to conquer their own fears and uncertainty, and of course to stand up to the dark forces clouding Europe at the time. You'll feel every inch of his frustration at his predicament, and the skepticism toward Lionel Logue's methods which to him doesn't seem to solve the issue at hand.

Tom Hooper, who directed The Damned United and had similar themes involving a maverick's attempt to excel and inspire, definitely knows a thing or two about putting a successful partnership on screen, and Geoffrey Rush proves to be that perfect counterpunch to Firth's King, whose pitch perfect enunciation of the English language lacked heart, which of course is the opposite of that in King George VI. What I also enjoyed is Hooper not employing tactics which other directors may employ in either fading to black at the critical crescendo built up or having the actual speech played while the credits rolled, providing something effective in reminding us that it's the process, and not the destination, that proves to be of importance and a highlight.

It's a tough one to choose between The Social Network and The King's Speech come Oscar season, but between the two, this one has a more inspiring, uplifting and positive tale about friendship, while the former touches on the destructive nature that success brings about amongst friends which is quite ironic given the creation of a world-beating social network that's supposed to promote communication and interaction between friends. I suppose it depends on what mood the voters are in when they cast their vote, but if given a choice, The King's Speech would be mine. Highly recommended, so don't miss this on the big screen!


Mr. G said...

I am hoping to watch it this week. But they really should have thought of a better title before they released the movie, the King's Speech just sounds so BORING!

BTW I have a favor to ask you. Can you review "The Room". I just saw it last week, and I can say without a doubt the worst movie I ever saw, but also incredibly entertaining. I think it would be really interesting to read your take on it!

Stefan S said...

Hello Indian Stallion, yes the content of The King's Speech is more interesting that what its title may sound, and I suppose the traction gained in the run up to the Oscars should put it in good company in terms of box office numbers here.

I'm not sure which "The Room" you're referring to, but if I do get my hands on a legit copy, it'll go into my ever growing To-Watch list :-)

Mr. G said...

well its the one starring the multi-talented Tommy Wiseau , who wrote the screenplay, directed it and is the main star.

Not sure how easy it would be for you to get a legit copy, but yeah you need to watch it!

Stefan S said...

Nice, will keep a lookout for it!

MrBungl3 said...

Good and complete review:)

Really didn't expect much from this title, but with an Academy Award I guess it had to be a winner. In my opinion, maybe not the movie of the year. But absolutely worth a watch.

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