• MailChimp Widget



Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
November 8th, 2010

Rating: 4/5

Writer: David Seidler
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce
Studio: The Weinstein Company

An unlikely king with a debilitating ailment. An offbeat practitioner with batty ideas. A country on the brink of war. If THE KING’S SPEECH sounds like awards season bait, you’re right. But while the true story of that unlikely king (Colin Firth’s George VI) and his debilitating ailment (a stammer that renders him almost totally incapable of performing the duties of a public king) and the offbeat practitioner (Geoffrey Rush’s Lionel Logue, a speech therapist with his own cure for things) who sets out to heal it sounds dry and dreary, it’s not. What will likely surprise (and delight) most filmgoers who take in THE KING’S SPEECH is just how damn funny and enjoyable it is to watch play out on screen.

The film draws much from history, including pieces on the public record (such as the famous wartime speech that the entire film builds to) all the way to the personal diaries of Logue. It is from these diaries that screenwriter David Seidler pulled some of the most amusing bits of dialogue – right from the king’s mouth. While Bertie (as he is known to those dear to him) may joke early on in the film that timing is not his strong suit when it comes to matters of jocularity, he’s wrong – the king was a real pistol, and THE KING’S SPEECH is a wonderful film – with a bullet.

THE KING’S SPEECH is not so much a film about monarchic machinations from a past era, at its heart, it’s a film about relationships – the relationships within a family, and the relationship between two very different men who steadily discover how much they are capable of relating to and caring about each other. As Bertie struggles with the expectations that consume his life – the expectations he places on himself, along with the expectations of his family and country – he remains endlessly relatable. Bertie’s issues with his father and his brother, in particular, don’t feel big and political, they feel focused and familiar. The monarchy is not just overstuffed rooms and over-adorned costumes, it is also a family, and much of what weighs on Bertie could weigh on anyone with a misunderstanding family, royal or not. Logue aims to help ease all those issues, along with Bertie’s speech, with an offer of something much richer than any sort of therapy that Bertie has encountered before – an offer of friendship.

The film was a passion project and a longtime labor of love for screenwriter David Seidler, who grew up with a stammer of his own, and a set of parents who encouraged him, saying that if King George VI could overcome his stammer, so could young David. That’s probably why Bertie is not presented to us as some distant and perfect monarch – and it’s not just his stammer that humanizes him for the audience, it is the entire feeling of the film, an intimate and oftentimes loving look at the man who would be king.

Filmgoers that have a knowledge of the British monarchy will be interested to see the strong viewpoint THE KING’S SPEECH takes on so many matters relating to the rulers. There is particular attention paid to the infamous love affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, which led directly to Edward abdicating the throne. Notoriously robed in scandal, the story is often shined over with a romantic bent, but THE KING’S SPEECH (already a film about honor and familial obligations) presents the story in a new light, only better illuminating the strength of Bertie’s character and resolve in the face of daunting challenges.

The film also benefits from impeccable production design. It’s extremely well-crafted, from costumes to sets, all of it forming a gorgeous background of meticulous work. Director Tom Hooper (JOHN ADAMS) reteamed for the film with production designer Eve Stewart, who also worked on his ELIZABETH I and THE DAMNED UNITED, along with further work on such films as BECOMING JANE and DE-LOVELY.

But when discussing THE KING’S SPEECH, it is nearly impossible to not speak in hyperbolic terms when it comes to the film’s performances. While the film is most certainly Firth’s (you will not see a finer performance by a male actor this year), you will also not see a finer performance by an ensemble this year. The cast is rounded out with performances by Helena Bonham Carter (reminding us all that she has skills that far exceed her often pigeon-holed roles in her husband’s films), Guy Pearce as a maddening King Edward VIII, Michael Gambon as a familiar King George V, and Timothy Spall as a frequently amusing Winston Churchill.

THE KING’S SPEECH is that rare animal – a hearty, entertaining film with the pedigree to take it (deservedly) all the way to the throne.

Commenting Rules: Comments are intended to open up the discussion to our readers about the topics at hand, and as such should be offered with a positive and constructive attitude. If your comment is not relative to the above post or is disrespectful to the authors and readers, we reserve the right to delete it. Continued abuse of our good nature will result in banishment of the offender. Additionally, if you have any burning issues to point out to the GATW crew - typos, corrections, suggestions, or straight-up criticism - please email us instead of commenting here.

  • Recent Post