Movie review – A king lost for words

2011-02-11 09:52

Film: The King’s Speech (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: Tom Hooper
Featuring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter
Rating: 10/10

For me to be speechless after watching a film is almost as rare as spotting a unicorn.

But I certainly was speechless after seeing The King’s Speech, which is all about projecting your voice and making yourself heard.

The fact that King George VI of England had a stammer is a footnote in history.

This film takes that anecdotal aside about the monarch and transforms it ­eloquently into a drama that ­subtly explores a plethora of ­universal themes.

Director Tom Hooper, a British television stalwart, uses his extensive experience in the realm of historical drama to capture the pre-World War 2 era in England – from the colours, to the speech patterns, to even using actors who can seamlessly take on that era’s “look”.

Hooper did, however, have flawless material to start with in the form of David Seidler’s script, and managed to secure a trio of veteran award winners to help him land 12 Oscar nominations and the spot as bookies’ favourite.

Firth will most certainly be leaving Los Angeles with the Oscar.

He lost out to Jeff Bridges last year, but this year, Bridges (who has been nominated for True Grit) will get a taste of his own medicine.

The story of the king who stammered, his surprise ascension to the throne and the man who helped him overcome his speech impediment to inspire a nation to cope throughout a war is streamlined into a linear story with a beginning, a middle and a rousing end.

The historical facts have been nipped and tucked here and there to allow for this, but in essence this is a true story.

Firth as George VI is amply supported by Helena Bonham Carter as his wife, Elizabeth, better known to latter generations as The Queen Mother, who lived past 100 and always wore a twinset and matching hat. Carter’s performance is uncanny.

Though she plays her at a much younger age, it’s possible to see The Queen Mum in every turn of her head.

The anecdote goes that The Queen Mother had no problem with her husband’s story being told, but she did ask the filmmakers to wait until she was good and dead before making it.

I am sure she would have been delighted with Carter’s sympathetic treatment of her.

It’s also a welcome change to see Carter playing it straight for a change.

Her past few roles have been in her husband’s brilliant but topsy- turvy films, such as Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

While she does crazy very well, The King’s Speech is a timely reminder of her still thriving thespian roots.

The film captures superbly the tender, loving relationship so unusual for royal marriages of the time and uses snatches of unexpected humour.

However, it is the relationship between George and his unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue, that is the engine of this film.

Logue quickly cuts through the etiquette to get at the man behind His Royal Highness, much to the chagrin of the king.

The film explores a nation poised for war and juxtaposes the two princes – one set on doing his duty no matter what, the other intent on pleasing himself above all else.

This film does not romanticise the torrid affair between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, which led to his abdication and opened the way for the younger brother who was not supposed to reign.

Guy Pearce portrays Edward as a spoilt, self-indulgent man and it alludes to his pro-Nazi tendencies.

Every performance in The King’s Speech is above reproach, save one.

Timothy Spall is a rubbish Winston Churchill.

He doesn’t have what it takes to pull it off, possibly because his last role was as Wormtail in the Harry Potter franchise, but also because he doesn’t have the screen presence to render England’s wartime prime minister.

The King’s Speech is probably as close to perfect as a film can come.

Don’t miss it. This is the best film you’ll see this year and it’s only February.

I guess Oscar will prove me right in a ­fortnight.

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