Monday, January 31, 2011

The King's Speech - My Take

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I felt a bit paranoid. Why? Let's see:
- Set in England - check
- About the monarchy - check
- Just before and at the beginning of, the Second World war - check
- Starring Michael Gambon (Cranford), Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice!), Helena Bonham Carter (A Room with a View) and, oh, yes, Colin Firth.

It was like someone had looked in my favorite things notebook or something. OK, I know, that's silly. But seriously, the only way this movie could be more up my alley is if Jane Austen wrote the screenplay.

The story is real: King George V is getting up in years. His heir is his oldest son, known to the family as David (the future King Edward VIII). His second son is the Duke of York, known to his family as Bertie.The oldest son is the golden boy, beloved by the press, brought up to be King. The second is son is quiet, devoted to his family and afflicted with a speech impairment that makes any sort of public appearance or obligation torturous.

Unfortunately for his family and his country, David was apparently not interested in subjugating his own desires to those of honor or duty. Which leaves...Bertie. (And, consequently in line to the throne, his daughter, the current Queen Elizabeth II)

Since David had not married, nor produced an heir, it seems maybe the Duke of York ought to have been preparing for the eventuality that confronts him.

The movie is about helping the future King George VI find his voice, yes, but it's also about duty, honor, and courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. -- Ambrose Redmoon
Colin Firth is, as I expected, absolutely brilliant in this role. He brings the man to life and makes his stammer much more than just a affectation of an actor. (I found myself echoing George V: "Just get it out, man!") The audience feels badly for the king, you want the unorthodox methods to work.

Helena Bonham Carter dials it down in this film. She sparkles quietly, acting in a much understated fashion compared to what one is accustomed to seeing from her.

Geoffrey Rush is his usual scene stealing self. Michael Gambon so inhabits the role of George V (actually onscreen only a scant few minutes) you easily understand Bertie's equal parts awe, fear, respect and love of his father.

The weakest point, to my mind, is the unfortunate casting for Winston Churchill. Timothy Spall (Mr. Venus in the BBC adaptation of Our Mutual Friend) is not a good fit (one reviewer called him toad like, perhaps rat might be a better description considering Mr. Spall's role as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies) and does not capture the wit or the gravity of Mr. Churchill. (I am willing to excuse this, however, considering the fact that if someone could actually capture Mr. Churchill's magic in a movie, the movie would then be about Churchill and not anything or anyone else.)

The wit is dry; the pace steady. There are no blatant s** scenes, no nudity, no violence and the one and only reason this film is rated R is because twice there is a long string of profanity. It is not spread throughout the movie (as so many action movies seem to do) and it is understandable (however unfortunate) in context. Without that I would have no objection in allowing my 9 yr old daughter to watch the film - it is uplifting without being saccharine and entertaining without being mindless.

Philip and I both found it depressing that he had to explain to the teenager behind the cash register at the movie theater what the movie was about. Apparently this boy had even asked his manager and he didn't know either. There was no poster up outside the theater. The movie was shown in the smallest theater in the back of the complex. Philip and I were easily the youngest folks in the room. It seems odd for such a deserving movie to be getting such treatment. Maybe that's not representation for the entire country: it is a gem of a film and deserves each and every award it receives.

The King's Speech official site, if you want to find out more.


Vicky said...

We have not been to see a movie in such a long time because they are all just filthy and not fit to watch! But this one sounds very interesting! Might be a movie for this Thursday's date! THANKS for the review!

Pastor David Pitman said...

Thanks for an excellent review!

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