Movie Review of the Week.

Welcome to our movie review of the week.  This week Chris has reviewed the Kings Speech for your reading pleasure.

  • Director: Tom Hooper
  • Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter, Guy Pearce
  • (****) 4/5

“The King’s Speech”; Tom Hooper’s latest oscar-baiting film tells a familiar tale of triumph in the face of adversity, elevated to the lofty realms of regality. Colin Firth is perfectly cast as Albert; his immaculate English reserve and stiff upper lip craft a warm and likable character. Albert ascends to the throne as George VI, in place of his brother David (Guy Pearce) who abdicates in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The film opens with Albert addressing a crowd of many thousands at Wembley Stadium, he struggles to deliver the words the to an eager and expectant crowd. His crippling stammer is both hugely frustrating and a constant source of shame for the Duke of York. His wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) looks on with a familiar pity. The voice of The King, especially in times of political instability and war, is vital in maintaining the faith of his subjects.

Firth inhabits the character of Albert with all the guile and subtlety that only an actor of his quality can. He characterises ‘Bertie’ with a short fuse and gentle vulnerability. Creeping insecurities borne from a childhood of teasing and torment. He has worked with the best speech therapists in hope of curing his condition. Physical therapy does not seem to be working. His loving wife Elizabeth comes across an intriguing character, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) – an Australian who claims to have a revolutionary and unique method of treating the condition. The relationship between the two is initially cold, with Bertie (as Logue insists on calling Albert, much to his annoyance) unsure of his approach. Logue tackles the emotional impact of Albert’s troubled childhood, and insists that the root of the problem is psychological and not physical.

The relationship between the two develops wonderfully throughout the film, the initial wariness and doubt of Logue’s practices soon abate – allowing an unlikely bromance to form. An enduring friendship that would last many years. Whilst witnessing Albert’s fight against his inner demons, an unlikely parallel crept into my mind: Rocky. The relationship between Albert and Lionel is broadly similar to that of Rocky and his trainer Mickey. Logue instills belief in the anxious monarch. He spars with Bertie throughout, jabbing and prodding to provoke self-acceptance and confidence. This new found certainty allows Albert to assume the role his father always hoped he would.

The emergence of radio broadcasting in the film mirrors the current technological revolution of today. The British Monarchy now has a Facebook page, showing their willingness to embrace modern methods of communication. The touching affects of Albert’s struggle and rise to the throne shape an uplifting story of human spirit, told in parallel as an involving history lesson.

Director Tom Hooper has scaled heights similar to his subject; from directing Byker Grove and Eastenders to a surefire Oscar nominated performance. His story is fully developed and visually beautiful, he makes full use of the grand backdrops and setting to wonderfully frame his images with opulent palaces and stately residences. The banter between Albert and Lionel is always witty and allows for an unexpected source of comedy. The film is occasionally very funny and the dialogue is consistently well written. An A-list cast of British supporting players rounds off the movie well, allowing the burden of focus to shift from Albert and Lionel’s odd-couple. Timothy Spall plays Winston Churchill, Michael Gambon is the ailing King George V (Albert’s father) while Derek Jacobi is Archbishob Cosmo Lang.

“The King’s Speech” is a well crafted drama of high quality. It is certain to garner Colin Firth an Oscar nomination and probably his first Academy Award. Characters who overcome personal defects to ultimately triumph are traditionally favourites of the Academy, most recent Best Actor awards have gone to characters with some form of affliction. Firth is likely to continue this trend.

2011 : A Film Odyssey is the movie review site of Chris Vaughan.

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