Sunday, February 13, 2011

The King's Speech

The King's Speech
With: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter,
Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall
Directed: Tom Hooper
Written: David Seidler
Genre: Historical Drama
Running Time: 118 minutes

"Because I have a voice!" the King shouts in utter frustration through insecurity and stammering. He gets one reply from his speech therapist and close friend: "Yes, you do."

The King's Speech tells the story of a powerful man fighting a weakness that limits the use of his own power. A king should be noble, strong and sure. A king should make his people feel secure and proud. How does a king do this if he cannot even communicate? It is the story of King George VI (Colin Firth), the man who went from being Duke of York to king of millions because his brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), abdicated to marry divorcee, Wallis Simpson in the 1930's.

However, George (or Bertie, as his family called him) is haunted by a stammering problem he developed as a child due to neglect and emotional abuse from a nanny. His father, King George V (Michael Gambon) is at the end of his life and the pressure escalates for Bertie to take charge and to speak as a leader. He tries numerous speech improvement methods, including smoking to "calm the nerves," but all to no avail. His loving and sympathetic wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds a unique speech therapist in an Australian "commoner", Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help Bertie and even though the relationship has a rocky start, Logue and Bertie soon become close friends. By the time King George VI has to address his country before the start of World War II, he has grown into a King to listen to.

King George VI: If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare war? Form a government? Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them.

The film opens on the day of George VI's first live radio broadcast and where the radio broadcaster perfects his voice and diction, George suffers a great embarrassment when his nerves and stammering prevent him from talking to the crowds. The cinematography is constantly utilized to show the pressure of public speaking and the distance George puts between himself and the people he has to communicate with and the production design constantly pulls you into an early 20th century world coming out of one war and moving into another. Criticism has come forward regarding historical truths (for example, King George's first live radio broadcast happened 10 years before portrayed in the film and George and Logue apparently never referred to one another as "Lionel" and "Bertie"), but that does not take away from the incredible story told and the strong, yet unorthodox friendship that develops between two very different people.

Director Tom Hooper is like a conductor in front of an orchestra with this film and he knows who to put in his masterpiece. Colin Firth captures the insecurity and pain of frightened king perfectly without ever falling into self-pity and Helena Bonham Carter plays the strong, ever supporting Queen Elizabeth with expertise. Geoffrey Rush is also absolutely deserving of every nomination and award that comes his way, because playing an aspiring actor who had to settle for a more simple life and then becoming something great because of pure compassion and unique flair is difficult. He perfects the brutally honest, yet humble, personality.

Lionel Logue: [as George is lighting up a cigarette] Please don't do that.
King George VI: I'm sorry?
Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George VI: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
Lionel Logue: They're idiots.
King George VI: They've all been knighted.
Lionel Logue:
Makes it official then. 

                            And The 12 Oscars (Hopefully) Go To:

Actor in a leading role: Colin Firth
Actor in a Supporting role: Geoffrey Rush
Actress in a Supporting role: Helena Bonham Carter
Art Direction: Eve Stewart & Judy Farr
Cinematography: Danny Cohen
Costume Design: Jenny Beavan
Directing: Tom Hooper
Film Editing: Tariq Anwar
Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
Sound Mixing: Paul Hamblin & Martin Jensen & John Midgley
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler
Best Picture

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