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Movie Review: The Kings Speech=4x Oscar Winner!
You don't have to love Colin Firth to love this movie. But I guarantee you will love him in this role! His performance as the noble, honorable, sweet, tortured. angry and tongue-tied Prince Albert is, as the British say, "absolutely brilliant!"
I admit I went to see "The King's Speech" to indulge my Colin Firth fantasies. I've had a not-so-secret crush on him since "Pride and Prejudice" (miniseries 1995). But I am also a huge fan of period pieces. The setting of 20th Century British royal politics was another draw.
Having heard the term "Oscar buzz" about Firth's performance, I knew he'd be in top Firth form (understatement-- in fact, Firth recently won the best actor Golden Globe). But I was also happily surprised by the supporting actors, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, as well as TImothy Spall as a most convincing Winston Churchill.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this splendid film. It's an historical drama with comedic overtones. Its a story of personal triumph, male bonding, family dynamics (good and bad), the restrictions and expectations of being a monarch, and marriage at its loving, supportive best. In short, "The KIng's Speech" is delightful on many, many levels.
But on to the review.
A Very Brief Plot Synopsis
Prince Albert (known to the family as "Bertie") is the younger son of King George V. His older brother David assumes the throne as Edward VIII when their father dies. Edward VIII takes up with an American divorcee named Wallace Simpson. Scandal ensues. Edward VIII chooses love over duty and abdicates the throne. Obviously Bertie is next in line and has no say in the matter. Like it or not, he must take his brother's place.
There's only one problem. Bertie suffers from a major stuttering problem. It's painful to watch him try to address the public. He stutters in private as well, but not nearly as badly.
Bertie's sage and devoted wife Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) takes matters into her own capable, no-nonsense hands. She finds an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue to help her beloved Bertie.
The movie centers on the therapeutic, but often contentious relationship between Bertie and Lionel. Now, even it only chronicled their budding friendship, the film would stand well on its own. But Bertie is anything but one-dimensional. Through his sessions with Logue we get to know him and understand him as a man as well as a monarch.
More British Royalty -- Henry VIII Goes Wild
5 Reasons to Love this Movie
1. History. Aside from watching every episode of "The Tudors" I must confess I have forgotten most of what I learned about British royal history in high school. As such, I knew the name "Prince Albert' (of phony phone calling fame -- "Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Let him out!!" Ha ha) but not much else about him. I had no idea he stuttered. Nor did I realize he was the father of Queen Elizabeth and married to the Queen Mother.
I did know about some king abdicating for the love of some lady named Mrs. Simpson. Was not aware this was Albert's older brother, tho.
So boning up on my royal family history and what was going on in England right before Hitler's rise to power was a nice bonus for me.
2. Costumes. One of the main reasons I adore period dramas is the clothing. How people dress tells a lot about society at the time. "The King's Speech" is set in an elegant time. Top hats and tails for the gentlemen (or Navy uniform, complete with epaulettes and medals) and fur-collared coats for her majesty. Even after ascending the throne, Albert/George VI and Elizabeth don't walk around wearing crowns. They are very much refined yet understated -- the 1930s equivalent of the current royal family.
3. Family. Speaking of royal families, this one's a doozie. On the plus side, Bertie has a fabulous marriage with Elizabeth. They have two adorable young daughters, Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) and Margaret. Bertie's interactions with his daughters are sweet and affectionate. At one point they ask for a story and he makes up a tale about a penguin who can't hug because he has no arms. It's so clever and creative. What a delightful dad!
On the negative side, we discover some not too savory things about Bertie's childhood. There's a reason Bertie stutters. At the risk of giving away too much, suffice to say that
a) being a royal child is a lonely existence, and
b) even kings are not above playing favorites with their children.
And while at first we think the two brothers are tight, it soon becomes clear that Dad isn't the only meanie in Bertie's life. David/Edward VIII is pretty abusive to his little bro as well.
Other Colin Firth Movies
Other films directed by Tom Hooper
4. Friendship. When you realize just how isolated royals are, the idea that Bertie actually forms a friendship with Lionel Logue is actually a miracle. The path to friendship is a bumpy one. Lionel must earn his patient's trust. Bertie must give himself permission to let down his guard. Lionel is a master at what he does. He doesn't give an inch, nor does he treat Bertie like anything but his patient. This is is what wins Bertie over in the end.
The scenes between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are the most entertaining in the film. You'll laugh out loud at Lionel's snappy one-liners, the "physical" therapy Bertie must endure, and the back-and-forth that runs the gamut of emotions (not unlike a "real" friendship).
Oh yes. If you've ever wondered whether monarchs curse, the answer is a definite, "yes!" And it's hilarious!
Tom Hooper's John Adams Miniseries
5. Triumph. This film is based on true events. There's no surprise ending to "The King's Speech." Lionel Logue is engaged to cure Prince Albert/King George VI of his stuttering. He succeeds. Which is to say, Bertie succeeds.
You can''t help but root for Bertie. He's eminently likeable. He's earnest. He's honorable. Even when he's sputtering in frustration, he's endearing. He's Colin Firth, for goodness' sakes!
Bertie never wanted to be king. But he was destined to be king.
You just know he's going to get it right in the end. And he does.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Official Movie Website
- The King\'s Speech - Official Site
Based on the true story of King George VI, THE KING'S SPEECH follows the Royal Monarch's quest to find his voice.