Sunday, February 10, 2013

"The King's Speech" (2010) -- Initial Thoughts

I nearly got to see this in the theater with a friend when Cowboy and I were searching for an apartment before we moved to Virginia.  But we went to see the True Grit remake instead.  I have to say, I'm kind of glad we made that choice, not because I liked True Grit better, but because that had some sweeping shots of lovely western landscapes that really benefited from the big screen. The King's Speech, on the other hand, is an extremely intimate movie, very character-focused, limited both in scope and scenery.  There are only a handful of outside shots, very few that are shot from far enough away that you can see anyone full-length.  Perfectly fine to watch in the living room.

The King's Speech concerns King George VI (Colin Firth) of England, beginning when he's just a spare heir with an ailing father and a playboy older brother who is set to inherit the throne.  He also has two beautiful daughters, a very supportive wife (Helena Bonham Carter), and a dreadful stammer.  Oh, and his name isn't George at all, it's Albert.  Got it?

Albert (Colin Firth) and Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter)

Right, so his wife convinces him to try this new speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who has unorthodox methods but gets Albert speaking more clearly.  Then King George V (Michael Gambon) dies, and Albert's older brother becomes King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) but insists he wants to marry this twice-divorced woman, which totally can't happen since as king he's also head of the Church of England and they won't hear of it, especially the Archbishop (a perpetually affronted Derek Jacobi).  Edward abdicates and Albert takes the name George and is king, king, king!!!

Except he doesn't want to be king, he's scared out of his bowtie, and he still stammers dreadfully.  Oh, and did I mention there's this dude named Hitler trying to take over the universe?  Let the good times roll.

Colin Firth deserved his Oscar, I will say that.  He's conflicted and sad and sometimes pathetic, but also brave and intelligent and so horribly, horribly aware of his speech impediment.  I can't imagine what it must be like to turn in such a brutally bare performance, and I don't want to -- I spent the whole movie feeling extremely sad for Albert, and to play him, much less be him?  Ouch.  This is not a comfortable movie to watch, though it does have a triumphant ending.  But I don't think I'll be rewatching it, at least not for many years.

Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth

I wanted to see this mainly because I was eager to see Helena Bonham Carter playing a character who wasn't Miss Havisham with a hairspray addiction.  And I absolutely loved her!  She was hands-down my favorite character -- her Elizabeth was supportive without being pushy, affectionate without being saccharine.  Wonderful.

Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush)

Who but Geoffrey Rush to play a rough-and-ready therapist?  Not much to say about him, other than that he did not disappoint.  Does he ever?  Not one of my favorite actors, but definitely one I respect.

Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall)

There was only one actor that I couldn't quite accept in their role, and that was Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.  And that was partly because I couldn't rid my mind of his performances as Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies.  Plus, his only resemblance to Churchill was his balding head and the way he pushed his lower lip out all the time -- he looked more like Alfred Hitchcock to me, but whatever, he had a tiny role anyway.

Old-Fashioned Charm

I love everything about the WWII era (well, everything except all the horrible death and destruction), so I found all the costumes here so delightful!  This is the eve of WWII, of course, but close enough.  This is the one costume I remembered most now that it's been a few days since I watched this:

It struck me at the time as being very much a costume -- and I don't mean the movie kind, exactly.  I mean that he was quite obviously dressed up to look the way everyone expected the new king to look, wearing all sorts of traditional male frippery.

I loved this one, though, mostly cuz I have a thing for suspenders:

And I love this shot of Elizabeth pouring tea:

She has a lot of furs, and some of the most magnificent hats.  This one was particularly striking, but she wore all of them with great panache:

Lionel Logue mostly wore very tweedy, fade-into-the-background clothes, as befitted his role as the man behind the king's speech improvements:

Right, so this is rated R because Lionel discovers Bertie doesn't stammer when he curses, so he gets him to shout out every single curse word he knows, yelling obscenity after obscenity in an emotionally relieving torrent.  There are a couple other moments where he tosses off a few obscenities to get into the flow of speaking, so you can't just skip that one scene and be safe.  Best to either find a Bowdlerized version or watch with a trusted friend who knows which bits to mute, if you are adverse to hearing some completely out-of-context but very strong swear words.  Other than that, there are a couple mentions of people enjoying a woman's favors (using that exact phrase), and that's all that I could find objectionable.

At any rate, a lovingly crafted movie, meticulously recreating the world as it once was.  Blissfully, deliciously acted.  Worth the praise it has acquired, in my opinion.


  1. Helena Bonham-Carter really looks like Elizabeth (later the "Queen Mum") IMHO. Will have to get this one out of the library. Thanks for the review!

    1. She really does! The hair helps a great deal, of course, and the hats. And you can't tell from the pics I posted, but they made her a bit stout. Superb job.

      It's definitely worth seeing!

  2. I liked this one quite a bit...watched it a while back. :) I do think it rather too bad that they had to include the language or it really could have been just PG...oh well. I understand why they included...nonetheless. Yup, good movie, and I did like seeing Colin Firth again! And Jennifer Ehle and David Bombur...all P&P 95 peoples, you know. :) It might be Bambur or Bamber or Bomber or something...I never can remember.

    1. I totally forgot to mention the P&P95 connection! Thanks for reminding me. I didn't even recognize Jennifer Ehle, and when the credits rolled, I said to my mom, "What?! No way!" But I spotted David Bamber right off, and said, "Do the Mr. Collins wave!" when I saw him (and did the wave), which completely confused my mom, and we had to pause the movie so I could explain, hee.

  3. Yeah, I thought the same thing about the man who played Winston Churchill!!! He just didn't look like him, and I didn't even recognize that he was supposed to be Churchill till I watched the movie for a second time.
    I particularly loved how the king and the speech therapist forged such a unique friendship. It was so much easier for the king to speak to Logue because Logue had no agenda...So cool!!! I am so glad you liked it. :)

    1. I'm very drawn to unconventional friendships (and unconventional love stories), so this definitely struck a chord with me there!

  4. I saw this film with a friend for my 23rd birthday. I absolutely love The King's Speech :) It's heartwarming, beautifully-made, brilliantly acted and I found it extremely uplifting. And rightly or wrongly we both find the swearing scene absolutely hilarious!

    1. It was quite hilarious, though I was watching it with my mom and so felt constrained not to laugh, hee. I wish they would release a PG-13 version! Oh well, some day I'll just have to get ClearPlay so I can watch things like this with my kids. Glad you really enjoyed it!


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