Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The King's Speech (2010)

THE KING'S SPEECH is a very well-done, absorbing film which takes its place alongside other outstanding recent movies about the British royal family, THE QUEEN (2006) and THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2008).

THE KING'S SPEECH depicts the true story of England's King George VI (Colin Firth) -- father of the present Queen -- who is unexpectedly thrust onto the throne when his brother (Guy Pearce) abdicates. The abdication crisis is soon followed by England's entry into World War II, and it is critical that the new king overcome his lifelong stammer so that he can speak to the British people as he leads the nation during a perilous time in history.

Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue, an unorthodox speech therapist who worked with the king for years and aided him in preparing to give his wartime speeches. Fans of the classic Firth-Ehle version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1995) will enjoy seeing Jennifer Ehle playing Logue's wife, Myrtle.

Much of the film feels like a three-character play between the king, his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter), and Logue. All three actors are excellent, particularly Firth and Bonham-Carter. Firth is simply superb as "Bertie," who grew up in an emotionally distant family but has created his own happy family life with his wife and two daughters; though initially reluctant to be king, he is determined to succeed. Bonham-Carter captures both Elizabeth's love for her husband and her regal steeliness, particularly in a scene where she refuses to be welcomed to a party by Wallis Simpson (Eve Best).

There are many more interesting actors who surface periodically, including Michael Gambon and Claire Bloom as King George V and Queen Mary; Anthony Andrews as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; Derek Jacobi as Archbishop Lang; and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.

Although I enjoyed the film very much, I felt at a bit of an emotional distance from it. Fact after fact presented in the film was correct, yet I found one part of my brain analyzing how much of the emoting was dramatic license and what might have actually been real. It's interesting I didn't have the same reaction to THE YOUNG VICTORIA, in particular; I'm not certain why I responded differently to the two films.

I also wished the film had delved a bit more deeply into wartime Britain. The film ends just as the war begins, so the audience isn't shown more of the royal family's leadership during the London Blitz. The film's languorous pacing might have been speeded up a bit in spots to allow for a few more minutes to complete the story.

Those minor quibbles aside, this is a very good film which is definitely worth seeing. Firth, in particular, gives a performance which is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

The film is rated R for swearing in a couple of sequences where Logue tries to help the emotionally repressed Bertie express himself. In the context of the story it makes sense, and it's as inoffensive as the use of such words can be. Otherwise the film is family friendly, excepting a brief, fairly oblique conversation between the Duchess of York and Winston Churchill about Wallis Simpson's hold on Edward VIII.

THE KING'S SPEECH was directed by Tom Hooper. It runs 118 minutes.


Blogger Terri said...

I am so looking forward to seeing this one! Collin Firth is becoming one of my favorite movie actors these days!

12:11 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Thanks so much for your review. Jennifer and I very much want to see this. Whether we see this together or she sees it w/her boyfriend is something to yet be worked out :)

Thanks also for saying why it was rated R. I personally do not see R rated movies and that part bothered be. But after reading why, it's a go for me. Should it have perhaps been rated PG-13 do you think?

10:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you'll like it, Terri!

Irene, the language is definitely bad -- the "f" word repeated numerous times -- but sadly I know from my own kids' experiences they hear that word every day at high school. I would have had no problem at all with my 15-year-old seeing THE KING'S SPEECH. She chose not to go see it because she is unwilling to see R-rated films at this point even when she has permission (grin), but I would encourage her to watch the DVD.

I have been unpleasantly surprised by the content of a few PG-13 movies (HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU was one I really wasn't comfortable with my then-13 or 14-year-old seeing); at the same time, the content of some R-rated movies is really horrific. Looked at in that light, this is an uplifting story of perseverance and determination, as well as an interesting slice of history, which I think is unfairly classed as an R.

I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts when you see it!

Best wishes,

12:05 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

My plan now is to see it tomorrow. I do have one question. Is the f word rampant through out the movie or just in that one part. I know what you mean about kids using that word over and over. It's sad that it's so jarring to me and yet means nothing to them :( At one time people could buy an edited version (the same as shown on airplanes) where things like the f word were edited out. I never found out where one could get those movies though. But, wow - good for your daughter :))

7:03 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

If I recall correctly since yesterday (grin), the "f" word (as well as a couple others) appears in two main scenes, once when it's first used to try to get Bertie to get a string of words out clearly and then again in a much later scene when the therapist is trying to help him with a speech. I might have missed listing a scene, but those are the two sequences I remember. They're bunched together, rather than being strung over the course of the entire film.

Best wishes,

7:15 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Oh, good. I'm not sure I could take it constantly :)

10:52 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I am so glad I did not let the R rating keep me from going! What were they thinking? Those brief scenes do not merit an R rating nor the comments about Wallace Simpson.

I LOVED this movie! The Edwards 26 in Long Beach put it in one of their smaller theaters but still a good sized screen. The place was packed. Interestingly it was an older audience. Mostly middle age and seniors and of that, mostly seniors.

This movie had better get lots and lots of Academy nominations. Colin Firth is amazing in this. I'm glad you mentioned Jennifer Ehle or I would have missed her has Logan's wife. And did you notice that Mr. Collins was in it? David Bamber played the casting director when Logan tried out for that part. And tons of actors my daughter recognized from the Harry Potter movies - but then I think just about every British actor there is has been in those movies! This is for sure on my list to purchase on DVD.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm delighted you liked it so much, Irene, and so glad you went to see it!

*Thank you* for telling me Mr. Collins was in it -- I knew he was a slimy Jane Austen character but couldn't place which one he was in. It had been bugging me all week because I couldn't find a name I recognized in the credits!

We saw it at the Bella Terra in Huntington Beach and there was a nice-sized audience too -- not packed but a good audience for an early afternoon film on a weekday (albeit a week a lot of people are on vacation).

I'll also be adding this to my DVD collection when it comes out.

I think I'm going to check out the miniseries ELIZABETH AND BERTIE: THE RELUCTANT ROYALS soon.

Best wishes,

7:25 PM  
Blogger CLM said...

Loved it, and had fun seeing it with my mother and her best friend. Firth, Rush, and HBC were all great. I wish Jennifer Ehle's part had been bigger but she was delightful as always, especially in the scene where she invited the king and queen to dinner. I knew to expect Mr. Collins somewhere but was startled that he was Churchill because of all the characters he is the most recognizable (and he did not look enough like him) but is a great actor. Far more upsetting was not recognizing Anthony Andrews who is one of my all time favorites, although I knew he looked familiar. The Prince of Wales looked very good too: have I seen that actor before?

I agree some bits of war time England would have been nice, but altogether it was very satisfying.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad you enjoyed it too! Nice you could see it with appreciative companions.

Anthony Andrews has also long been one of my favorites, and it took me a good couple seconds to recognize him. When I did, I whispered "Scarlet Pimpernel" to my daughter, who was completely baffled -- although she's seen that one multiple times, she didn't recognize him at all!

I don't believe I've seen any other work listed for Guy Pearce, who played the Prince of Wales.

Best wishes,

9:12 PM  

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