By News1130 Movie Addict Treena Wood
Early on in my broadcast career, I had a brief problem with hyperventilation. I’m sure I remember it being much worse than it actually was – I mean, I still have a job all these years later, so that should say something. I vividly remember sitting in front of the microphone, absolutely panicked, trying to force words out of my mouth. If I could have physically reached down my throat and pulled them out, I would have. Instead I sucked in gulpfuls of air and freaked out even more, a vicious cycle that didn’t end until I left the booth. In the opening scene of The King’s Speech, as Prince Albert desperately stammers in front of a radio microphone, all those feelings came flooding back. I could feel myself tensing up in my seat, my breathing got short, and I fell in love with him.
The screenplay by American movie and TV writer David Seidler is based on historical fact; Prince Albert, second in line to the throne, becomes King George VI when his brother abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson. We first meet Albert as the Duke of York, always in the shadow of his brother, under the disapproving eyes of his father, painfully shy, and so desperate to cure his speech impediment, he follows a “doctor’s” advice and piles a dozen glass marbles in his mouth to talk around them. After the disastrous speech at Wembley mentioned above, and knowing the new technology called radio was around for good, he unhappily agrees to see yet another specialist. Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue refuses to treat the Duke as anything other than an equal – even calling him by his family nickname “Bertie” – and badgers, cajoles, and otherwise infuriates the Duke (who then becomes King) into revealing a dark childhood and a lifelong sense of being less than. The movie culminates in the King’s radio address to the Commonwealth as it sits on the brink of World War II.
The masterful Colin Firth plays a King that you can’t help but root for. He’s pompous but wry, loyal to “the firm” even as he’s ridiculed by his family. He’s humble, vulnerable, and his own worst critic – and always with that hesitant glimmer of hope. Geoffrey Rush is Lionel Logue, playing him as an unorthodox Aussie who knows the King’s issues have less to do with the mechanics of speech and more to do with mental dialogue. The superb cast is rounded out by Helena Bonham Carter as the future Queen Mum, and whoever costumed her has the royal “fashionably dowdy” pre-Diana look down pat. Guy Pierce plays the dissolute, love-drunk Edward to a T, and Michael Gambon is brief but memorable as the imperious King George V.
The direction by Tom Hooper (The Damned United, Elizabeth I) isn’t terribly notable; what carries this picture from start to finish is the script. Tight, snappy, and laugh-out-loud funny in places, it’s all the best of British film while leaving out the worst. There’s nothing better than droll delivered in that cool accent. The King’s Speech – referring to both the public broadcast that defines King George VI’s reign, and the private hell he goes through to get out of his own way – was named the People’s Choice Award winner at the Toronto Film Festival and picked up a raft of hardware at the British Independent Film Awards. It is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and my early favourite for the Oscar.
1 hour 49 minutes
5 out of 5 stars