Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The King's Speech

Every December (sometimes not until January for those of us not living in New York or LA) we are inundated with Oscar contenders left and right. Sometimes though a film will go beyond that to the point where it's obvious that it was made specifically to be nominated for awards. Before a frame is shot everyone who's signed on knows it too. "The King's Speech" is such a movie. But the thing is Tom Hooper (the "John Adams" mini-series) has directed a film that actually deserves them. It's not challenging, mind-bending, or innovative by any stretch of the imagination but it's not pretending to be either. Really it's what "A Beautiful Mind" and "Cold Mountain" claimed to be. (Actually I take that back about "Cold Mountain." Nothing is what that claimed to be.)
It's 1934 and Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth), is uncomfortable in the spotlight. His pronounced stammer makes delivering public addresses traumatizing experiences. Unfortunately as a member of the British royal family he has no choice but to speak publicly from time to time. The only support he receives comes from his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) and his young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. His ailing father, King George V (Michael Gambon) feels the stammer is due to weakness, while his selfish older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) has used the stammer to taunt "Bertie" throughout their lives.
After George V's death Edward becomes King so Bertie needn't worry about becoming a stammering figurehead. However, Bertie's problem is in dire need of a solution, particularly as it becomes apparent that Edward may abdicate the throne to marry an American divorcee. Elizabeth hopes Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is the man for the job. The sometimes rocky but very real friendship that develops between Bertie and Lionel as they go through their therapy sessions becomes the focus of the film.
The screenplay by David Seidler is full of witty dialogue that still manages to sound like real people talking. The interactions between Bertie and Lionel flow from funny to moving with the greatest of ease, while Firth and Rush make the most of their roles. Firth doesn't simply play the surface of a well known historical figure with a speech impediment. He makes Bertie a fully formed character, full of anxiety and given to bouts of anger. His frustration as he tries to overcome his stammer and his fears is very real. As England and the world march closer to World War II these things only become amplified.
Rush is outstanding as Lionel, a man who is often hard on Bertie (which he calls his patient in spite of Albert's position) but who ultimately cares very much for him. The interplay between the two actors is impressive not only because they are such excellent performers but also due to how easy they make it look. The rest of the cast provide nice touches but it's the Firth and Rush show and that is just as it should be. Carter may not have a lot to do in the role of Elizabeth but she is exactly what the film needs her to be.
Hooper's direction is notable for how he makes the period detail and filmmaking flourishes seem so simple. There is some very definite directorial style on display but it's remarkably low key. Just like virtually everything else about "The King's Speech" it's just what is necessary.
"The King's Speech" is a very good movie that knows full well it's a very good movie and doesn't feel the need to reinvent moviemaking. It's entertaining, classy, and yes, genuinely uplifting. One of 2010's finest. 9.5/10.


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