Monday, December 27, 2010

Movie Review - The King's Speech

The King's Speech - ****

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce

Review: A truly debilitating stutter or stammer is something that most people don't have to deal with in their lives. If you do have such a debilitating condition then chances are you are really good at hiding it or in a position in your life where you don't have to speak too much (especially not publicly) and it doesn't become an issue. But what if you were born into a situation in which you couldn't hide it and you to speak, speak publicly and speak publicly often?

This is the situation the Duke of York found himself in in the 1920's and 1930's. As the second son of the King of England the Duke has had a stammer as long as he could remember. For most of his life he didn't have to worry about it, they lived in a different time than we did where media had no presence beyond the occasional radio broadcast and a Duke or king could walk the streets and not get mobbed constantly. Dealing with a stammer was possible and something that could be hidden from the people as much as possible, especially when you are not the king or even next in line to be the king.

As the King's health begins to deteriorate in the 1930's the issue of more necessary public speaking is thrust upon the Duke. He begins to realize there is no way around it and must find a way to cure himself of this stammering that has plagued him all his life. Especially when his father passes and away and his eldest son assumes a throne that he wants nothing to do with.

This leads to the Duke (played by Colin Firth) enlisting the help of Lionel Logue, a speech therapist. Their relationship is one we've all seen before in movies of this type; somebody with an issue nobody can seem to help finds someone who has "unusual" or "unorthodox" methods and happens to be the only one who can actually help. It brings more credibility to the story that it is based on real events and this is actually how it happened, nonetheless, we've all been here before.

Fortunately for us, it doesn't matter that we've been there, because the performances in this movie were spot on enough that it didn't even matter. The relationship forged between the Duke/King and Logue (Rush) is an endearing relationship that is truly at the heart of the movie. Logue pushes the Duke beyond just fixing his stammering, he pushes him to fix himself. The Duke has insecurities and shortcomings like the rest of us, only his manifest themselves in the form of a stammer.

Logue tried to get the Duke to look inside himself and find the root of his insecurities and conquer them. The Duke is not used to being challenged, the common man usually does not make a habit of trying to challenge royalty, but Logue insists they be looked at as equals and tries to make him challenge himself.

The Duke is given a few tricks to try and overcome and hide his stammer when speaking in public. Throughout their relationship he has many occasions to speak in public and finds himself still haunted by his stammering. The more intense and stressful the situation the stammer rears it's ugly head. The stammer is quite distracting at first. The Duke has obviously had training and many attempts to fix his situation so he knows how to try and hide it the best he can. However, ultimately it will come out no matter what he does.

The more we learn about the Duke the more the stammer seems to slowly fade away. We learn that the Duke is a man of such steely determination and strong will that his stammer is not the definition of who he is, rather, it is a slight impediment between him and getting where he needs to be, which is leading the people of his nation. When his brother takes over as king but does not want the crown, it is clear that the Duke is the better man for the job and he is the person his people need. However, with World War II approaching it is also apparent that in order to be the person his people needs and lead them into this tumultuous time he needs to overcome this impediment.

Seeing Firth's performance is quite remarkable in this film. Through his brilliance something as distracting as this stammer slowly melts away and the true character of the Duke is revealed. There is no question that he is the right man to rule his people if only he overcome the fact that he 'bloody well stammers!' It takes a special kind of performance to be able to have a noticeable stammer and still find a way to reveal the true depth of a character behind it. Firth does it with ease. He is helped by great performances from Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter who plays his wife.

Every year there seems to be a small British movie like this that comes along that I really enjoy (think The Queen). There is no action, little tension, few characters, few locations, and lots of talking. I happen to enjoy these types of movies a lot when the performances are solid and the film is done correctly and this one is. If you don't mind the 'slower' type movies with lots of sharp dialogue and great performances then this movie is definitely worth your time.


  1. Will he win the Oscar? My gut tells me he will, but if I had a vote it would still go to Jesse Eisenberg, I thought he was phenomenal in The Social Network. Who do you have?

  2. I'm hoping for Franco, just because 127 is such a different acting experience, but I bet it's Firth. Eisenberg being a close second. The AA's are getting harder to predict now, since they are kind of trying to 'spice it up' a bit, with a more youthful profile (Hathaway, Franco hosting). Plus it would be cool to have the presenter win an Oscar haha. Firth has done an amazing career, and does deserve to win. Eisenberg and Franco have years a head of them. DiCaprio is going to win for 2012 Eastwood production about J. Edgar Hoover, I'd bet a bucketload of money on that, so it's not his time now (and don't think the performances matched other possible nominees).