January 20, 2011
"The King's Speech" is one of the front-runners in this year's awards races, and now that I have finally watched it, I would say that it certainly deserves that place. It is a movie with epic scope, detailing the transition of the British monarchy in the turbulent second quarter of the past century. Yet it is also a very personal tale of the king- to-be Albert who suffered from a serious stammer, an impediment that would compromise his ability to communicate with his future subjects.
At its basic core, The Kings' Speech is the story of the relationship between Albert and his speech therapist Lionel Logue. Logue is not a certified specialist, but only learned his skill through the school of experience. Yet between them, a close (initially testy) bond is forged, which later grew into a true friendship between royalty and commoner.
Colin Firth acted perfectly as the beleaguered monarch, with his tormented tics and mannerisms as expected. His role goes from the uncomfortably quiet to the very loud and profane, using Logue's unusual techniques. Geoffrey Rush's acting is more subtle (and likable) here than in his Oscar-winner turn in "Shine." He is understated acting as the royal mentor, yet firm and resolute in following his own rules, despite his VIP patient. Both of them deserve their awards consideration. In fact, this may well already be Colin's year to snag that Oscar. Helena Bonham Carter as the King's wife Elizabeth is also getting awards notice, by playing it nice and supportive. I should also mention Jennifer Ehle as Logue's wife Myrtle, especially in my most favorite scene, when she meets the King and Queen for the first time.
My one minor quibble is that the actor who played Edward VII (Guy Pearce) looked much younger than Colin. I got confused about their ages for a while during their scenes together, and had to look it up afterwards. I also felt that director Tom Hooper made the grave content of the climactic final speech look and feel secondary to the King's style and success of delivery. Of course, overcoming his stammer is the point of the movie, but hey, he was also delivering his first radio broadcast about the start World War II! There should have been as much emphasis on the sincerity of the message as was given the speech technique.
On the surface, it might sound confined and boring, but it is anything but. It is a heartfelt, humorous and very interesting look behind the scenes in a critical transition period in the history of British monarchy. And it is also a very instructive movie for speech therapists and other people who work with patients with disabilities. Do not miss this well-made, well-written, and well-acted historical film.