King’s Speech, The

Tom Hooper’ s vastly entertaining period drama, “The King’s Speech,” walks a fine line between an art feature and a commercial movie, a serious drama and a crowd-pleasing fare.

The handsomely mounted movie, which played extremely well at the Telluride and Toronto Film Fest (in the Gala Presentations section); will also serve as a gala of the London Film Fest. The Weinstein Co. will release the film November 24 as one of their Oscar contenders (the other is Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine,” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams).

The versatile British actor Colin Firth (Oscar-nominated for “A Single Man’) renders yet another compelling, Oscar-caliber performance as King George VI, also known as the father of Queen Elizabeth II. He is ably supported by Geoffrey Rush (also credited as one of the producers), who should get a Supporting Oscar nomination, as the raffish Aussie speech therapist who treats the king’s paralyzing stutter.

Like another highly accomplished costume feature, the Oscar-winning “The Queen,” which won Helen Mirren the Best Actress Oscar, “King’s Speech” represents a classy and prestigious, if a tad too conventional, entertainment, offering emotionally stirring moments and accessible historical background in equal measure, about a beloved monarch, George VI, who began as a weakling and underdog and then reigned supreme for a long time, showing strong leadership during Hitler’s Nazism.

Essentially, “King’s Speech” is a male camaraderie narrative, which depicts in detail the initially unlikely but then powerfully evolving friendship between King George and his unorthodox therapist.

When first met, the future King George VI is a young, shy prince and Lionel Logue is sort of an eccentric speech specialist, assigning with reconstituting the monarch’s delivery—and, by implication, his ego and confidence.

Initially, these social expectations (actually pressures) prove too overwhelming for Albert Frederick Arthur George, better known as Bertie, or the Duke of York (Colin Firth), whose crippling speech impediment causes public embarrassment at the British Empire Exhibition, in 1925.

His life was full of physical problems and disabilities. Born in 1895, Bertie was left-handed before being forced to become right-handed, and as a boy, he wore corrective splints on his legs

Screenwriter David Seidler, who was originally supposed to direct the movie, finds an interesting strategy to the text and its main characters, focusing on a seminal era in mass communication, when the then new media of radio and film newsreels offered a more direct, immediate and effective rapport between leaders and their followers.

Scribe Seidler and director Hooper make clear that the new communications calls for new skills, such as charismatic presence, compelling and convincing voice, and clear, articulate and eloquent delivery.

Like “The Queen,” essentially “The King’s Speech” is a drama of reassurance, reaffirmation, and acceptance, steering clear from thorny and provocative issues.

Even so, we detect tension in the relationship of the two stubborn men.  Lionel Logue is a friendly Aussie, but he insists on dealing with Bertie on his own terms, stating clearly to him and his wife, the Duchess of York (the good Helena Bonham Carter): “It’s my game, my castle, my rules.”

The cast of secondary characters reads like the “Who’s Who” in the British theater and cinema.  Michael Gambon plays Bertie’s father King George V, Claire Bloom is his wife Mary, Anthony Andrews is Stanley Baldwin, Timothy Spall is Winston Churchill, Derek Jacobi is the Archibishop of Canterbury.

The film’s title bears two meanings, literal (denoting the physical impediment) and figurative.  The drama ends on a high and satisfying note, when George VI delivers a smooth, emotional speech on the radio at the beginning of WWII.

 

Cast

King George VI (Colin Firth)
Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush)
Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter)
King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce)
Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall)
Archbishop Cosmo Lang (Derek Jacobi)
Myrtle Logue (Jennifer Ehle)
Stanley Baldwin (Anthony Andrews)
Queen Mary (Claire Bloom)
Wallis Simpson (Eve Best)
King George V (Michael Gambon)

Credits

A Weinstein Co. release presented with U.K. Film Council of a See-Saw Films/Bedlam production, in association with Momentum Pictures, Aegis Film Fund, Molinare, FilmNation Entertainment.

Produced by Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin.

Executive producers, Geoffrey Rush, Tim Smith, Paul Brett, Mark Foligno, Harvey Weinstein, Bon Weinstein.

Co-producers, Peter Heslop, Simon Egan.

Co-executive producers, Deepak Sikka, Lisbeth Savill, Phil Hope.

Directed by Tom Hooper.

Screenplay, David Seidler.
Camera, Danny Cohen.

Editor, Tariq Anwar.

Music, Alexandre Desplat; music supervisor, Maggie Rodford.

Production designer, Eve Stewart; art director, Leon McCarthy; set decorator, Judy Farr.

Costume designer, Jenny Beavan.

Sound, John Midgley; re-recording mixer, Paul Hamblin; supervising sound editor, Lee Walpole.

Special effects supervisor, Mark Holt; visual effects supervisor, Tom Horton.

Line producer, Peter Heslop.

Associate producer, Charles Dorfman.

Second unit camera, Matt Kenzie.

Casting, Nina Gold.

Running time: 118 Minutes

 

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