The King's Speech (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
15Jan/110

The King’s Speech (2010)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny LIKEAndrew and I were pretty much destined to watch this film: his love for Geoffrey Rush is matched by own enthusiasm for Colin Firth. Both sublimely charming and entertaining actors, seeing the two of them get to play off each other was to be and is a treat to be sure.

They star together in The King's Speech, a film that puts an heir apparent to the throne up against a common speech therapist. Albert, AKA King George VII, is taking the throne on the eve of the second World War, and has had a stammering problem as long as he can remember. It's admittedly a hell of a stammer. His wife, an almost sleepwalking Helena Bonham Carter, picks out Logue, a controversial speech therapist who may or may not have certifications. Through the crisis of succession and the emerging friendship, the two work on shaping George into not just an able speaker but a great leader.

Yes, acting. It's what actors do.

And if you can already hear the music welling up and tears forming in people's eyes, then you already know what you're in for.

The film plays with two main tones. The setting of the mid-30's Britain is given a drab look, with even the hallways of power full of dreary draperies. This is the world of Albert's personal life which was full of torment from an unsympathetic family and a sense of responsibility that unnerved him. Elsewhere, in Logue's decaying London office, the tone becomes less foreboding and more playful. It's here that the movie shines, but I suppose that's not the fault of the plot but of the handling.

Albert and Logue are fine creations, and both actors Firth and Rush are a treat while they're on screen. For Logue, his character arc is minimal, but Rush still plays him with enough conviction that the silent, last shot of him still resonates spectacularly well. As for Albert, his reasons for the stutter will surprise no one, and the same can be said for most of the rest of the film. Worse, his motives seem mixed and rarely relevant; much of the royal machinations lord over the charming Albert/Logue sessions, resulting in a film that always feels as if it is starting and stopping and never gaining much momentum.

Director Tom Hooper has a peculiar sensibility. He often resides firth in the left side of the frame, Rush in the right, and hopes that the audience will pick up the visual cue of how different these men are. It's a fairly transparent strategy, and like much of the film, distracting from the good parts.

Usually you have to pay to get to do this.

One interesting way of reading The King's Speech is not so much as the cheesy comedy of equals that it puports to be, but rather as a lame attempt for the Hollywood elite at apologizing for the crapiness of modern cinema. This is probably me stretching (both in terms of metaphor and trying to get this review out to an even 500 words), but look at the film from a categorical perspective: powerless figurehead men at the zeitgeist of cultural awareness (the King / studio executives) working with a common actor (Logue/uh, fans of independent cinema, perhaps) to try and gain a modicum of dignity in a perilous situation (World War II/internet piracy). Luckily someone says some pretty words in front of a microphone and all the troubles are assuaged; I don't think that'll ever happen again, but it's nice to think.

It's obvious I'm bullshitting, but because The King's Speech doesn't try and do very much besides being a showcase for Firth and Rush, I don't think you can really blame me. This film annoys me one one because it's so far removed from modern troubles that it feels so wholly sanctimonious and safe; I wanted this to be a riskier film and less a Weinstein-stamped awards season contender. I wanted more The Queen and less Mrs. Henderson Presents, I suppose.

But the film is what we've got, and it's a pleasant film, just not a very daring one. Boo to the jerries and chip chip cheerio for old Bertie.

Posted by Danny

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