The King's Speech
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King's Speech

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In the mind of the public there is a certain perception applied to those in position of power and authority that such individuals are set far above the common throng; infallible, perfect and somehow imbued with qualities unattainable by we mere mortals. Automatically Presidents and Kings are included in this elite group; special by nature of birth right or position. There is a popular form of literature and cinema that takes such exalted individuals lowering them to our imperfect level. Typically the moral of the story is the might must be humbled with willingly or by external influences. An interesting variation of this theme can be found in the movie ‘The King’s Speech’. The twist that elevates this movie to such grand heights is the King under examination starts out imperfect and must struggle to overcome adversity much as any commoner would have to do. This is a story about royalty that touches the heart of the audience in the most fundamentally human way possible. Although ultimately backed by the studio system this film has all the qualities of an independent film that makes such movies such an important aspect in the continued growth of cinema as an active, vital art form. Like a number of Indy films it started off slowly with only a few screens to exhibit the movie. This made the hope of recouping the $12 million budget a dim prospect. That was until award season rolled around. This propelled the movie to global recognition culminating in achieving a near swept of the Academy Awards including the all important Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Picture once the award momentum was set in place the film easily pasted $138 million. You don’t really watch this film; you experience it. The story is relatable; the performances are emotionally powerful all molded by direction that is close to perfection. There were some detractors that questioned the accolades heaped on this movie but for the most part they are completely unwarranted. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray so you can judge for yourself; you will not be disappointed.

If you happened to meet Bertie (Colin Firth) on the street the first impression you might form wad of a gentle, unassuming man like any you might meet in the course of your daily rounds. His retiring manner is in large part a result of his pronounced, debilitating stammer. This speech impediment seems in contrast to something about him that seems out of place, a regal quality that is inherent setting him apart. This dichotomy becomes clear when you discover that this man is Albert Frederick Arthur George, the Duke of York, second in line to inherit the title King of the British Empire; King George VI. A serious stammer can be embarrassing to anyone to the point of resulting in a problem interacting in social situations. While a regular person can avoid such situations that require public oration if you are the King of England such an avenue of relief is not one that is at all feasible. By the very natural of the position Royals make speeches; it is as much a part of their lives as knowing which crown is worn of which occasion.

The Royal Prince is not glorified in any sense of the word. In the hands of a master craftsman such as Colin Firth the portrayal of the King is multi-textured, revealing nuances and details that are incredible each on their own but in combination blending into something truly remarkable to behold. The future King is shown as a complicated man. On one hand he is a loving, devoted husband to his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) and their two daughters but he can also manifest a temper especially towards on beneath his station. This is first demonstrated with his initial meeting with the man who would become his speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Although that confrontation is between individuals on very unequal social standing Logue insists on treating the Prince as he would any other patient, albeit with just a touch more respect. Logue was highly unorthodox but ultimately effective which did afford him certain concessions when in private session with the royal personage.

The emotional heart of the film is how the Prince is trapped by circumstances beyond is control. When his father King George V (Michael Gambon) dies the throne passes to his older brother who becomes King Edward VII (Guy Pearce). The nation was on the verge of World War Two and leadership was crucial to the very survival of the government. Edward falls in love with a twice divorced comer America woman leaving Bertie to assume the public mantle of King George VI. This man who was brought up not as the heir but as the spare is thrust into the spotlight fully expected to be elegant in speech reassuring a worried nation on the eve of war. Logue had to more than help correct a serious speech defect; he had to instill in a man the confidence to rule a nation through a critical time of history.

The performances here are exceptional. There is an interaction between the men that is nothing less than a force of nature. It is rare that two actors of such magnitude, such talent get to perform on the same screen. This movie is mesmerizing, captivating like few film have been. This film will endure as a classic becoming part of cinematic history and a touchstone for upcoming generations of filmmakers.

Audio Commentary with Director Tom Hooper
Making Of Featurette: An Inspirational Story Of An Unlikely Friendship
Q&A with the Director & the Cast including Colin Firth
Speeches from the Real King George VI
The Real Lionel Hogue Highlights

Posted 04/21/11

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