Finding one’s voice can be a difficult challenge. In “The King’s Speech,” matters are made worse when a member of the royal family with a stammer has to face the task of giving a speech that will give strength and clarity to a country facing the onslaught of World War II.
Colin Firth plays the stately, proper and verbally awkward Albert, the Duke of York, and a man with a painful speech impediment in the film. Firth pulls out all the stops as a man with such a severe stammer, you can hear the clicks and gurgles in his throat as he tries to express himself. You can’t help but sympathize with him. Firth plays his role with a certain amount of wonderful, shy charm — he is the type of man you want to see win.
Geoffrey Rush is terrific as the unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue. Rush has a marvelous way of portraying characters that are eccentric and heartwarming. He’s an oddball in the nicest way possible. Logue is the antithesis of the Duke of York; he is comfortable in his own skin.
You can’t help loving a man who says, “I will call you Bertie” to the king-to-be. Logue creates an environment that is safe, becuase it is a place where king and commoner are able to quell disappointments and stammers through a developing friendship. Rush and Firth have such a real rapport with each other that it is believable that the two men might be friends beyond the silver screen.
Helena Bonham-Carter is perfect as the doting woman behind the man, the king’s wife. It is through the administrations of the wife that Logue and Bertie find each other.
The only disappointment was that there couldn’t be more of Bonham-Carter used in the film. History just won’t allow it — after all, this is not really a film about the whole of the royal family. It is instead about the relationship of these two men.
My only complaint with the film is the pacing. It could be stronger if there were less outside distractions, such as miscellaneous scenes of the royal family, and more Rush and Firth. The chemistry between Firth and Rush is so exquisite that you can’t take your eyes away from them. It also would have flowed better if the filmmakers had shaved off 15 minutes, focusing less on extraneous scenes and more on what’s important: the men’s developing relationship.
Director Tom Hooper had the right idea when he decided to make the look of the film reflect the political and economic status of the time period in England. Through the use of close-ups and extreme close-ups, you get to see every wrinkly bit of flesh.
It is through those particular shots that you get to experience the tension the characters are feeling. This is not a pretty time period to live in and the director reaffirms this with subdued colors, little makeup, rooms with scarred floors and peeling paint, drab clothing and the sparseness of locations.
All of the important scenes are inside, giving the impression of intimacy in some scenes and claustrophobic in others.
This is not a funny movie (although there are moments of delightful comedy), but instead a movie that delves into interiors of genuine friendship.
4 out of 5 stars
Story by Shawn Buckenmeyer