Friday, April 30, 2021

Green Phoenix - The King's Speech Review

 A film poster showing two men framing a large, ornate window looking out onto London. Colin Firth, on the left, is wearing as naval uniform as King George VI, staring at the viewer. Geoffrey Rush, on the right, is wearing a suit and facing out the window, his back to the reader. The picture is overlaid with names and critical praise for the film.

I'm super excited about today's article.

The King Speech, directed by Tom Hooper, is an Oscar-winning drama that was released in 2010 to near universal acclaim. As a fan of not only history, but stories about monarchies, and cinematic dramas, this film was essentially purpose built for me to love it. I realize that I don't usually give my impression of a film in the introductory segments of these articles, but I don't really feel like diffusing my enthusiasm.

Seeing the term Oscar-worthy, and realizing that the Academy Awards was only last week as of writing this article, I am reminded of the fact that more many filmgoers, the Oscars haven't ever really been an indicator of mass appeal and most people will likely never see the films which are graced with such awards unless they happen upon them when binge-streaming. An unfortunate reality of our world but one I hope articles like this can hopefully rectify.

Back in college, I established a reputation for myself as being drawn to the more popular forms of cinema rather than esoteric arthouse films (much to my fellow classmates  derision), and I hope that artistic appreciation for less "artistic" films has garnered trust in you all to be open-minded towards a more artistic and dramatic piece. There are no great action scenes in The King's Speech, only a deeply personal story of a friendship between a man who would be king and his eccentric speech therapist. The film is in many ways, the perfect "Oscar" movie and is therefore likely ignored by many for more action-packed blockbusters.

I hope therefore that this review might drive you all to check out this incredible dramatic story, based on real history.

***
  • Directed by Tom Hooper
  • Produced by Momentum Pictures
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Running Time: 119 Minutes
***

SUMMARY

It is the 1930s and Europe is once again at the brink of war as Adolf Hitler uses the power of oration to push his nation further and further into war. In Britain, the aging King George V is dying and the future rests on his two sons. His eldest son and heir, David, is a gifted speaker and widely loved by the people, but is hopelessly attracted to a woman that he is unable to marry and dislikes the duties and responsibilities of kingship. His younger son, Albert, is everything David is not. Dutiful and shy, with a terrible stammer brought on by years of psychological abuse and physical disability.

With the possibility of the Crown falling on the shoulders of a king that cannot speak, Albert and his wife employ the services of an eccentric speech therapist named Lionel Logue. From there, a powerful friendship blooms that will challenge Albert to become the king the United Kingdom needs, with a voice as strong to match.

***

REVIEW

As you could no doubt tell by those introductory paragraphs, I absolutely love this movie. Just about everything in it is perfect in my mind and it holds a near exalted place in my film collection, even if I mostly stream my entertainment these days. The King's Speech is an absolute favorite for which I will sing the praises of at every opportunity.
 
Directed by Tom Hooper, most people today would know him as the director of the rather terrible Cats film and the middling success that was Les Misérables but in my opinion, The King's Speech is his best work and showcases his talents perfectly. A good director is able to take a script, performers, and locations and make them work for him. The King's Speech is a very dialog heavy and down-to-earth film. While it does deal with the lives of the British Royal Family in the early 20th century, the real focus is the friendship between Albert (King George VI) and Lionel Logue; and the film keeps its focus on that.

From an editing perspective, this film is nearly flawless. The overriding theme of the importance of listening and the power of the human voice is outlined in very trimmed and well put-together scenes. Of particular note are the many scenes within Logue's office and the talk between Albert and Lionel just before the prior's coronation. The film is trimmed to near perfection and I cannot think of any scenes which do not, in some way, assist in the overall point of the film.

Those scenes would not be near as effective without the stellar performances of the actors, as The King's Speech is essentially a character piece, hinging its emotional story beats on the friendship of King George VI, played by Colin Firth, and Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. Both actors are fantastic in their roles and their chemistry and connection to each other feels natural and deeply affectionate over the course of the film. You really understand the depth of their trust for one another, even in spite of their differences in social standing. Geoffrey Rush is a delight as the very personal and unorthodox speech therapist, both supporting his client by listening and mockingly keeping him on his own level with digs at his class and standing. Colin Firth's performance as the future King is almost heartbreakingly relatable. He plays King George VI as a deeply shy man who was bullied into silence and who desperately wishes to be heard by others despite his disability. It's a truly vulnerable look at a man who was forced by circumstances beyond him to step up and succeeded.

The rest of the cast also shines through, with special notice being given to Helena Bonham Carter for her role as King George's wife. She is a comparatively minor role but is still a vital pillar of support for the king and is the one to introduce him to Logue in the first place.

The story starts in the last years of King George V, as Albert's elder brother is preparing to assume the throne amidst controversies surrounding his relationship with Wallace Simpson. King Edward VIII in many ways serves as a foil for Albert throughout the story. Where David (Edward VIII's real name) is popular and well-spoken, Albert struggles with even the most basic of conversations, especially with his abusive family. It's a tragedy to watch "Bertie" be forced into a situation he doesn't want, but makes you feel all the more triumphant when he excels at the role, particularly in the film's climax.

The music is mostly understated and used to enhance the scenes that it is used, but there isn't a whole lot that stands out about it, truth be told. It's certainly not terrible and it serves its purposes, but you won't really be humming the music after the film is over with.

All in all, The King's Speech is a triumph of filmmaking, especially if you are a fan of historical dramas or enjoy deeply character driven narratives. The movie ends at the beginning of World War 2 so don't expect much in the way of action. But you can and should expect to see a powerful film of a man coming to terms with the power of his own voice and using it to inspire his people despite his fears and anxieties.

 
VISUALS
  • 10/10
SOUNDTRACK
  • 9/10
CHARACTERS
  • 10/10
STORY
  • 10/10

 FINAL SCORE - 9.75/10

***
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