Monday, April 18, 2011

The King's Speech

''Movie poster courtesy of See-Saw Pictures/Bedlam Productions”
I’ve only now seen the 2010 British historical drama, The King’s Speech, and enjoyed it so much I watched it twice—and paid a fortune to do so! Of course, it’s old news to you guys, as earlier this year the film won four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director for Tom Hooper, Best Actor for Colin Firth, and Best Screenplay for David Seidler.

This film features the enormously talented Colin Firth, who deservedly won the
Academy Award for Best Actor, but I have only this to say about the film: Geoffry Rush, Geoffry Rush, and Geoffry Rush!

I was introduced to Geoffry Rush’s enormously talented acting in his 1996 film, Shine, and have been a devoted fan since, but I delighted in every moment of Rush’s performance in The King’s Speech. Rush’s acting in this film is simply flawless and The King’s Speech showcases his talents brilliantly. Rush’s performance absolutely steals the show!

The King’s Speech dramatizes the story of King George VI of England’s ascension to the throne after his brother Edward VIII abdicated his rule prior to the beginning of World War II. Although based on historical facts, the film dramatizes the relationship that developed between the reluctant king, George VI, played by Firth, and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Rush, hired to help the King overcome his embarrassing and un-king-like stammer. The acting of both Firth and Rush is a delight to watch in the seeming sparring match as the men build a tenuous-at-first but ultimately a rich, lifelong relationship between a common man and a royal.

As with the 2006 film, The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, which depicts the lives of the royals in the wake of the tragedy of the death of Princess Diana, The King’s Speech beautifully allows us entry and an insider’s view into the lives of the royal family and what challenges they face as human beings, even though they are under enormous pressure to rise above the thoughts, feelings, and reactions to events as contrasted to those of “the common man.” Stories such as these make the families of the British monarchy more accessible to us all residing in the realm of the “common man.”

Also, since I’ve lived in the time of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it was great fun to see her portrayed as a child along with her sister, Princess Margaret, under the care of their royal parents. And it was fun too, to see a more playful, witty side of the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, in her younger years played by the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter.

The story is based on true events but the historical facts are altered to increase the dramatic effect of the film. In particular, the film has been criticized for the portrayal of Winston Churchill’s part in the abdication crisis. In history, Churchill urged King Edward the VII to resist abdicating the throne, but in the film he supports the abdication. It is also said the characters of King Edward and King George V were made more antagonistic than they actually were to increase the dramatic effects of the film as well.

I was delighted in the casting of this film: the roles seem tailor-made for every actor. I can’t imagine anyone better to play the Queen Mother, Helena Bonham Carter, another fabulous actress and a favorite of mine, and Guy Pearce’s performance of King Edward VIII is delightfully wicked. The casting choice of Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill has been criticized, but I found him fine in the role. The more I see of Michael Gambon the more I like and he was a perfect choice to play the superbly strong but ultimately ailing King George V.

At first I was put off by the very dark and murky tone of Danny Cohen’s cinematography: the film seems washed in dark gray tones and I felt I was in a depressing cave the whole time viewing the film. However, such cinematography wonderfully captures the mood and dreariness of nineteenth century England at the beginning of another World War as Hitler and Nazism came to power. The costume designer Jenny Beaven was spot-on and it was fun to see the royals decked out in their impeccable clothes as contrasted to the attire of Logue and his family’s “commoner’s” fashion.

Again, I delighted in the film and felt a personal connection as I’ve lived in the time of the reign of the current Queen, Elizabeth II. I loved an insider’s seat to the story of her mother and father and I found myself, a closeted anglophile, running to brush up on my British history as soon as I left the theater. This film is a definite must-see if you missed it—and Geoffry Rush single-handedly steals the show!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, i had no idea what this film was about and now i HAVE to see it. Sounds absolutely divine. I am a colin firth-o-phile...