Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Bertie and Elizabeth: The Reluctant Royals (2002)

Years before THE KING'S SPEECH (2010), there was the British TV-movie BERTIE AND ELIZABETH: THE RELUCTANT ROYALS.

BERTIE AND ELIZABETH covers very much the same ground as the later film, portraying the relationship of Britain's Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and his wife Elizabeth, and "Bertie's" struggle to come to grips with both his lifelong stammering and unexpectedly being thrust into leading a nation on the brink of war. The older film even includes scenes with speech therapist Lionel Logue (Michael Elwyn), a major character portrayed by Geoffrey Rush in THE KING'S SPEECH. BERTIE AND ELIZABETH spends more time on World War II, something I wished had been depicted more extensively in THE KING'S SPEECH.

Both films suffer from a somewhat elliptical storytelling approach which doesn't allow as much character development as one would like. For instance, BERTIE AND ELIZABETH never really shows us why the title characters fell in love, but proceeds from dance to shoot to proposal in the space of a few minutes. Both films also noticeably "cheat" at times to prevent the need to shoot expensive crowd scenes; BERTIE AND ELIZABETH's wedding is conveyed simply with the taking of the post-wedding photograph.

BERTIE AND ELIZABETH is watchable and entertaining, especially for those familiar with and interested in British history, but THE KING'S SPEECH has the advantage of performances which are much richer and more layered.

The title characters of BERTIE AND ELIZABETH are played by James Wilby and Juliet Aubrey. Wilby is the better actor of the two, while Aubrey seems to have two expressions: supportive or pained. Curiously, a bit of a Scottish accent seems to sneak out of Wilby from time to time, although according to IMDb he was born in Burma. The two leads are pleasant but not particularly memorable, and they tend to pale in comparison to the recent Oscar-nominated turns by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter.

Alan Bates is rather cartoonishly gruff as King George V, while Eileen Atkins plays Queen Mary. It's hard to say whether Atkins gives a stiff performance or is trying to portray a stiff woman with suppressed emotions; perhaps it's a combination of the two. Charles Edwards is quite good as David, aka King Edward VIII, while Amber Sealey portrays Wallis Simpson.

Favorite British actor Robert Hardy (Prince Albert in EDWARD THE KING) turns up as American President Roosevelt. Helen Ryan, who played Queen Alexandra in EDWARD THE KING, plays the Queen of the Netherlands this time around. The cast also includes Corin Redgrave as Gen. Montgomery, Dennis Lill as Clement Attlee, Paul Brooke as Tommy Lascelles, and David Ryall as Winston Churchill.

BERTIE AND ELIZABETH was directed by Giles Foster. It runs for 105 minutes.

This movie is available on DVD, as well as VHS.


Blogger Irene said...

Early on in all the talk about the King's Speech I read about this movie. Unfortunately the public library doesn't have it, but it is on YouTube :) It's bookmarked along with other movies to watch.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Toria Burrell-Hrencecin said...

Great review! I also recently saw "King's Speech" and then happened upon "Bertie & Elizabeth" while searching around on YouTube. I wondered if anyone out there had written a comparison of the two obviously very different movies. Your thoughts are similar to mine, and very well articulated.

8:21 PM  

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