Saturday, 8 January 2011
I had to drag a very reluctant friend to see this. "The King's Speech? As in the one about the King with a stammer? Really?", is an example of the enthusiasm displayed. After well crafted persuasion (three members of the Harry Potter cast present being the clincher) he begrudgingly agreed. Little did he know the treat he was in for.
For The King's Speech is not what it looks like. My friend's lack of enthusiasm is understandable: on the surface, this could be seen as a stuffy, uptight, solemn documentary about the stammer of King George VI. Not exactly gripping to say the least. The film is anything but, slaying any reservations in the first five minutes. For one, the film is funny - laugh out loud funny, actually. The cinema rang with laughter, with David Seidler's painfully witty script to thank. The script is definitely the winner of the film, making a seemingly esoteric film extremely accessible. An example of said humour is when the King's speech therapist Lionel, played by a remarkable Geoffrey Rush, suggests swearing as a way of venting the King's frustration, and as a possible stimulant to fluent speech. What follows is a slur of obscenities, which considering his status as King, is hilariously funny. I never thought I'd see the day were a King uttered "fuck fuck fuck fuck shit balls" in one sentence. Or at all, for that matter. It is humour like this which causes you to be totally behind the King. Not only this, but his humane portrayal - the first scene sees the then Duke of York giving a speech at Wembley Stadium, stammering so much hardly a word emerges. From this, we can see the embarrassment and awkwardness a stammer causes for the speaker. Without this support, the film would crumble.
This support is also gained by an outstanding Colin Firth. He is impeccable. At the end of the film you have to pinch yourself, because Firth is George VI. His stammer is flawless. But not only that, he portrays the King with a likability which I doubt any other actor could achieve. The King has the audience laughing one minute (when asked if he knows any jokes, he replies "timing isn't my strong suit"), then holding back tears the next (the titular King's speech one of the best pieces of acting I've ever seen). He's not just a King, but a father (to a Princess Margaret played by Outnumbered's Karen, if you thought you recognised her), a husband (to a terribly quick Queen Elizabeth, played by a magnificent Helena Bonham Carter), a brother (to Guy Pearce's frivolous King Edward VIII) and a son (to Dumbeldore's, I mean Michael Gambon's trying George V), filling these difficult roles with wit and compassion. Alas, he struggles at the role which may seem the easiest, being a friend to Rush's Lionel.
Rush's Lionel is another winner of the film. He provokes the most laughs, refusing to acknowledge the King's superiority. To promote a pleasant atmosphere, he asks if he can call the King "Bertie", audacity like this consistent throughout the film, every time having the audience in stitches. If he, Firth and Bonham-Carter don't get Oscar nominations (or wins) for their roles I will lose faith in all humanity. If Firth's sublime performance in "A Single Man" wasn't enough for the Best Actor gong, then this is award-winning given to the Academy on a plate. The film is also a feast for the eyes. We are given a sneak peek into the King's domain whilst still Duke of York, Balmoral, Buckingham Palace, these regal palaces extremely beautiful, oozing decadence and wealth. The costumes are also brilliant. There is not much colour in the film, although I can't imagine there was in the inter-war period. It is rarely sunny, the weather usually raining or grey, this lack of colour possibly adhering to the severity of the situation, or reflecting the supposed sincerity and reserved class of the Royals. For two hours, we are sucked into early 20th Century England, and are held with a tight grip.
This is a film which will linger in cinema-goers conscience for a very long time. If I haven't stressed it enough, it is terribly funny. The film has a tenderness and uplifting ending which will provoke nothing but sheer joy in the viewer. This is a classic which will be watched again and again, and I sincerely hope it will be acknowledged with the numerous awards it deserves.
Posted by A Bonfire of the Vanities at 14:07