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Rated R for some language
posted Feb 19, 2011 - 9:11:38am
During a time when scientists and other important men were pioneering the radio airwaves and exploring their possibilities, and as political tensions intensified and world war loomed, the United Kingdom looked to its throne for a strong, resolute voice. As bad timing would have it, that voice had a stammer.
The Kings Speech is the story of that leader, King George VI (Colin Firth), and his uncommon relationship with his speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). There are certain artistic liberties taken with the film’s story as it relates to historical events, but it’s done to create a narrative that fully explores this friendship in a more theatrical fashion.
The experience of The Kings Speech is very regal, very classical, but without ever seeming stuffy. Part of that is due to Logue’s insistence that, for his speech therapy to work, both he and the king must be equals. Thus, King George VI, the reluctant and great leader who would see the empire through World War II, became known (quite colloquially) as “Bertie.”
Stars represent how good a movie is as art—how the acting, directing, writing, cinematography, and so on come together to create a satisfying story experience for the viewer.
Popcorn represents how fun a film is to watch—how funny it is, how exciting the special effects are, and how enjoyable the story is on repeated viewings. The perfect popcorn movie would be one that never got stale regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.
Together, behind the confines of closed doors at an office far from Downing Street or Buckingham Palace, Bertie and Lionel shout profanity, sing speech to “Camptown Ladies,” and roll around on the floor, all in the name of destroying the psychological barriers that block Bertie’s speech.
In terms of cinematic excellence, The Kings Speech has everything: fantastic acting, beautiful cinematography, aesthetic colors, a smart script based on an intriguing true story. Add to this the fact that the film is simultaneously imperial and accessible―who hasn’t been nervous speaking publicly before?―and this is the type of movie that deserves all the praise it gets.
While Firth will deservedly get much of the credit for his role as King George the Stammerer, it’s the supporting cast of Rush and Helena Bonham Carter (who plays Queen Elizabeth) who make Bertie a sympathetic character. Without their support, he is merely a shy man forced into the public eye. But their characters, neither as flashy from an actor’s perspective as the Stammerer, allow exactly the types of candid moments needed to create compassion.
There are parts lacking in emotional payoff, times when tense moments are resolved too easily, but the pacing throughout is otherwise great. Director Tom Hooper uses close, claustrophobic shots and ambient noise to build suspense, which contrast with wide angles against the drab grays and earth tones that imply remoteness.
And there is definite progression throughout the film, the visuals evolving and shifting until the climactic third act, which is almost perfect in its execution, vivid and frantic, purposeful and utterly aware that the story being told is not merely about a king with a speech impediment, but about the uncertainty and terror of impending war. The brilliance of the scene showing George VI’s final rehearsal before his wartime address cannot be overstated.
And through it all, Hooper and scriptwriter David Seidler force the audience to empathize with George VI, celebrating each small triumph and cringing each time he is brought back down. Any film crew that can make a single radio address seem more important than worldwide war―and that is exactly what The Kings Speech does―deserves much respect.
Stars and Popcorn grade: 5 stars, 3 1/2 popcorn.
— Hunter serves as editor-in-chief for movie-review website Stars and Popcorn. To learn more about Stars and Popcorn, visit www.starsandpopcorn.com. Send e-mail to Hunter at email@example.com
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