Friday, November 19, 2010

The King’s Speech – Movie Review


Last night in my movie class, we saw the British drama, “The King’s Speech”, starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.

When the Duke Of York is forced to make an increasing number of speeches on behalf of his ailing father The King, he hires a therapist to help him overcome his stutter – but after he’s unexpectedly thrust further into the spotlight as King himself with World War II looming, will he be able to effectively reign despite this adversity? 

In 1920’s England, an aging King George V seeks to make fewer public appearances and wants to send his son Edward – rightful heir to the throne – in his stead.  But with Edward shirking his royal responsibilities, Edward’s brother Albert (Firth) is then forced to take his place.  The dutiful son winds up being pushed to make a speech before a huge crowd at Wembley Stadium, which is also being broadcast on the radio – but when his nerves get the better of him, his dreaded personal secret is finally revealed to the entire country:  The Duke Of York is a stutterer. 

As a result, his loving wife Elizabeth (Carter) urges him to seek help and Albert begins seeing a physician who makes him endure awkward and embarrassing exercises that eventually cause him to fire the doctor and resign himself to the fact that he will have to live with this affliction for the rest of his life.  Upon the recommendation of an authority, Elizabeth seeks out a speech therapist by the name of Lionel Logue (Rush), an Australian who is highly regarded for his success in this field, despite the fact that he uses some rather unorthodox approaches to treating his patients. 

Between Logue’s peculiar professional techniques and his penchant for calling The Duke “Bertie” (his family’s nickname for him), Albert is turned off to the treatment sessions – but once he and Elizabeth are astounded to find that Logue’s unusual methods are actually resulting in Albert making progress, he becomes encouraged and continues with his visits to Logue.  After Albert’s father dies, his brother Edward becomes King, but his reign only lasts about a year because he abdicates to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.  Once this occurs, Albert unwillingly becomes King.  However, during the events leading up to his coronation, Albert’s advisors inform him that Logue is a fraud because he lacks professional training of any kind.  With this revelation, will Albert fire Logue and be able to successfully lead his nation as King George VI during World War II? 

With a combination of strong acting, intelligent screenwriting and clever direction, “The King’s Speech” is one of those rare movies that comes along once in a great while in which you are hard-pressed to find any flaws.  The major characters – especially Albert – are all very sympathetic both as written and in their portrayal and the choices of shots especially well done at times, allowing the audience to view stressful moments from Albert’s perspective during his struggles. Will this movie win an Academy Award?  Will it be critically acclaimed?  Will it be a success at the box office?  Well, my crystal ball seems to be on the fritz today, so I can’t make a prediction – but I certainly do hope that all three of those things will become true. 

Using the current argot, I would characterize this story as something of a “bromance” – although set in a historical context (particularly with a World War II backdrop in the third act of the film), the movie is essentially about the friendship, mutual respect and trust that develops over time between these two men and winds up being sustained over a period of many years.  One thing that can often alter a movie from merely good to great is when it takes you into another world and you are able to learn more about it than you previously did; such is the case with “The King’s Speech” as the story serves to educate us not only about stutterers, but also, the little “tricks” they use to overcome their condition. 

Surprisingly, this movie gets a rather undeserved ‘R’ Rating; although lacking in both sex and violence, the supposed justification for this rating is due to the fact that there is a good deal of cursing in the film – in particular, there are quite a few F-Bombs dropped by His Majesty Himself.  This is rather unfortunate because it can cause some people to be inclined to not want to bring their children to see this flick, which would be incredibly wrong.  If you want to experience a heartwarming and uplifting story about loyalty, friendship, duty and discipline populated with charming and admirable characters that tells an utterly fascinating and entertaining history lesson, then you absolutely must make it a point to see “The King’s Speech” – and when you go, if you do have kids, definitely remember to bring them along!