Thursday, March 31, 2011

Totoro's Review Of... "The King's Speech"

Recently I had the privilege of seeing "The King's Speech", which was recently honored with four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth) & Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler).

And here is my review...


The Story
Colin Firth plays Albert, Duke of York (second son of King George V of the United Kingdom), who has spent his entire life in the shadow of his elder brother Edward, Prince of Wales (Guy Pearce). However, Albert has thus been able to live free of any expectation of ascending the throne, which may be a blessing in disguise due to his severe stutter. But occasionally Albert is called upon to perform royal duties on behalf of his father, which include public speaking engagements (the opening scene of the film involves Albert giving the closing address of the 1925 British Empire Exposition at Wembley Stadium, a speech carried abroad via the new technological marvel of radio.)

The speech goes so poorly that Albert's wife Elizabeth, Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks aid in managing her husband's stutter. Eventually she meets speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who agrees to take Albert on as a patient. Soon after starting treatment, George V (Michael Gambon) dies and Edward assumes the throne as King Edward VIII. However, Edward soon abdicates after a prolonged crisis, leaving Albert (now King George VI) the task of ruling (and later uniting) a nation now at war with Nazi Germany. With Logue's help, the King successfully gives the first of many speeches that would help galvanize the country through what would become known as the Second World War. As a result of their experiences, the King and Logue strike up a close friendship which would last for the rest of their lives.

The Review
This film was a joy to watch from start to finish. From an acting standpoint, Colin Firth gives a perfectly nuanced performance as Albert/King George VI. While Geoffrey Rush gave an equally superior turn as Lionel Logue, I was pleasantly surprised with Helena Bonham Carter's performance as the Duchess of York/Queen Elizabeth. I must also give special distinction to Timothy Spall for his performance as Winston Churchill. Director Tom Hooper, who previously on my radar screen due to his work on the John Adams mini-series, scores big points with me for his confined, incisive shooting style. The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Danny Cohen with a visual palette that perfectly captures the gritty opulence of Depression-Era London.

The Verdict
I can understand the viewpoint of those who labeled this film as a bit TOO conventional for its own good. It certainly seems like a story an Oscar voter would love, in that it pushed all the right emotional buttons. However I thoroughly enjoyed the film in spite of these flaws, and recommend it not just to film fans, but students of history. I will also state that this film serves as an excellent companion piece to The Queen, since they both convey the tone of a monarch (and monarchy) in crisis.


~Totoro (Creator, Executive Producer)

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