Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: The King's Speech (2010) TH



All ears on him

All aboard the Stammer Train: the one that contorts mouths, twists tongues and causes more word jumbling, scrambling and tangling than somebody with a jackhammer pressed against their backside. Don't have a ticket? Well, you can take a stroll alongside this ride as it moves gradually and gives a bird's eye view in. Call it a courtesy, as this is one story that comes with overcoming an impediment that you might want to see as it's not just a bunch of stiff English blokes and blokettes in the '30s expunging emotion and sipping tea.

The Duke of York (Colin Firth) was born into royalty: fancy home, finest dress, chauffeur and most importantly the people see him as a symbol of excellence and expect someone of his stature to take command. Except there's a dilemma: he's got a life long stammer and can't complete a full sentence without locking up or getting stuck. He's being groomed in case he's next in line of succession and has to make public speeches as well as broadcast on wireless radio where every flubber can be painfully heard. The supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) wants to bring out the best for her husband and after many failed attempts she gets in contact with a sure-of-himself Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who's known for being "unorthodox" and "controversial." His royal highness is mentally sharp and capable, though by this time he's at a point where he just wants to except what he has and move on as his whole life he's been told to just spit it out, not to mention belittled by his own family members including his own father King George V (Michael Gambon) and his brother the Prince of Wales (Guy Pearce).

"The King's Speech" has a dry sense of humor at times. There are some funny conversations between the Duke (or Bertie) and Dr. Logue (Lionel) as they attempt to become equals and break down previously built up barriers. Lionel is candid and direct, and Bertie is reserved and defensive. Some specialists only look at the physical maladies of the impediment, while this one attempts to go back to the root of the cause. They do exercises that include breathing, getting in physical shape and, who could forget, cursing up a storm, as Bertie is able to easily say a string of words when frustrated or mad. King George V has an illness, the Duke's brother has extracurricular activities that he doesn't want to give up and the Nazis are becoming a dark shadow over Europe. The Duke must make a decision to take charge and utilize all those speech lessons for a live address to the nation and a large portion of the world.

This is a journey that extends over a period of years. "The King's Speech" comes with the good, bad, humorous and trying of times. The period had different people, different settings but the situation can be seen as similar to today with someone with a condition that not everyone understands and is often mistaken for being weaker than they really are. Colin Firth made it all come together: he's able to transition between held back to capable without skipping a beat in between. The setbacks he goes through are presented without being overwhelming and nailing the point home. It's treated with care and gives some room for viewers to decide their take. Geoffrey Rush plays it as a visionary who sees life from a different angle. He's cocksure but still has to think on his feet. What makes him likable is he's passionate about what he does, though the patient has to want it. This is not just about speech and politics, but also two men from different backgrounds sharing an unexpected friendship.

Director: Tom Hooper (Red Dust, The Damned United)
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon
Website: IMDB