Friday, December 24, 2010

THE KING'S SPEECH: The Film Babble Blog Review



THE KING'S SPEECH
(Dir. Tom Hooper, 2010)



When Prince Albert, the Duke of York, steps up to the microphone to deliver the closing speech at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925, we sense his extreme trepidation. As portrayed by Colin Firth, the Duke is a dignified yet nervous man - nervous because he's suffered his whole life with a debilitating speech impediment.

Albert's audience at Wembley cringes at his painful attempts to oratate in which the awkward gaps between words (or more accurately word fragments) seem to stop and start time. The Duke's wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) desperately wants to help her husband, and after much looking for a qualified speech therapist finds Geoffrey Rush as the erudite and sharply eccentric Lionel Logue.

Rush, who doesn't make house calls, doesn't want to take on the patient until he finds out who it is.

Firth is also hesitant thinking that his stammer is beyond repair, but after a short session is convinced otherwise because of Rush's recording of the Duke speaking almost normally while music plays through his headphones.

When the Duke's brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicated from the throne for marrying a twice divorced American woman (Eve Best), Prince Albert becomes King George VI and is set to give a crucial radio address as war is looming.

Although it has a highly capable supporting cast including Michael Gambon as King George V, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, it's mainly Firth and Rush's show. As good as Bonham Carter is here she's considerably just decoration on the side.

Firth dives into Rush's treatments involving breathing exercises, untangling tongue twisters, and a hilarious spouting out of a string of profanity in a scene that alone gives the film its R-rating. Even as it can be seen as largely a filmed play (much like FROST/NIXON) there's an elegant film surrounding the 2 excellent actors.
It's mostly set in Rush's study, but director Hooper allows for a nice amount of visual splendor.

In a rare break from the indoors the therapist and his royal patient take a walk together in a sunbathed park that fades behind them. It's arresting imagery that draws us closer to the leads and greatly enhances our emotional investment.

An investment that really pays off.

Firth takes on a difficult role - that of a stuttering man of stature - and infuses it with a living breathing fully realized performance, but it's Rush who truly steals every scene he's in. Rush is an absolute delight as the confident commoner speech therapist who fancies himself an aspiring actor.

A winner in every way, THE KING'S SPEECH was made for awards season, but unlike with such Oscar bait as CONVICTION or FAIR GAME - that's so not a bad thing.

It's witty, wise, and wonderful - well deserving every bit of recognition it will definitely get.

It feels cheesy to use such clich├ęd critical accolades as "uplifting", "inspirational", and God forbid "the feel good movie of the year", but dammit if the shoe fits...


More later...

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