The King’s Speech Review

Posted on February 20, 2011 by

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Okay, so we all know this movie basically blitzkrieged the baftas and is likely to do fairly well at the oscars as well, but the savvy among us also have that hinting suspicion that this movie was made to win awards. So the big question is: is this movie any good?

Well, let’s ignore all the oscar bait stuff for now. Let’s ignore the fact that this is a period movie about a handsome man with a disability that does’t impair our ability to sympathise with him, and look at the most basic element of this film- the bromance. Because that’s what this essentially is, a period bromance between Bertie, stammering second in line to the throne, and Lionel, his new unorthodox voice coach.

Every bromance is based very much of the likabilty of the characters, whether or not you can get your audience invested in these two guys and their budding friendship. The actors who portray Bertie and Lionel, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush respectively, have an excellent chemistry and the way they interact with one another is truly a joy to watch. Lionel spends most of the movie simply trying to break down Bertie’s defenses, all this anger and rage and impatience that’s built up over years and years of living with his stammer, and the pressure put on him by his family to overcome it.

Bertie himself is stubborn, and hard, and short tempered, which is understandable given his problem. He’s seen dozens of doctors throughout his life who have all attempted and failed to cure him of his stammer, a process which has left him disillusioned and near breaking point, convinced that there’s no hope left for him.

Both men also have families to deal with. Lionel’s is poor, but content. He has a son who wants to be a doctor, his wife who wants to be supportive but can’t because Lionel is bound to secrecy regarding his treatment of the future king, while Bertie has to put up with his father the King, who wants Bertie to take his place instead of his older brother Edward, who himself bullies and belittle Bertie about his stammer and is determined to marry a woman who’s been divorced twice, which would make it impossible for him to be king.

Bertie never wanted to be king, and, with a stammer like his, who can blame the guy? Watching his few attempts at public speaking are painful, as he’s gripped not by the stammer itself, but his fear of the stammer. Where he succeeds is in his sessions with Lionel, is Lionel’s dingy little office where the majority of the movie takes place. As Bertie gains more trust in Lionel, he finds it easier not just to talk, but to talk about himself, because Bertie’s real problem isn’t physical, it’s mental, and what Lionel is really doing is acting as a therapist for him, helping him get over his issues and himself to become the man he has to be.

Now let’s talk about that other stuff. As a period setting, it’s great. The world is on the cusp of World War 2, Hitler is marching across Europe, and there’s this whole air of impending doom over the whole film, which really helps the audience to get behind Bertie and this little ray of hope amongst all this darkness.

I can’t go any further without mentioning Helena Bonham Carter. One of my lecturers said it best when he said ‘I never considered the possibility that I could be sexually attracted to the queen mother’. This is as far as I know, the first time in years that She’s done a more normal, sedate sort of role. She was that big headed queen in Alice in Wonderland, she was the creepy goth witch in Harry Potter, and it’s nice to see her just acting, without a ton of make up and without cackling like a loon, which I know is fun and all, but its not something you can make a living from, unless you’re Jim Carrey. She doesn’t actually have that much screentime, or that much to say, but when she’s there she is a presence to be reckoned with.

I think the thing that surprised me most about this movie is that is was funny. I genuinely wasn’t expecting to laugh so much through a movie about a king with a stammer, but the dialogue is snappy and witty and the talks between Bertie and Lionel are full of energy.

I’d really love to be able to make jokes about this flick, but really there’s nothing here to laugh about. It is a genuinely solid, entertaining movie, and while the ending is obvious, and the plot is somewhat formulaic in places, but there’s nothing bad about the King’s Speech, with the exception of the somewhat lame double meaning of the title itself, but at the same time even that makes sense, it’s like the movie itself, it isn’t pretending to be something it isn’t.

But what it is, is something great. It’s not special, or epic, or huge. It’s just great, and if you’ve been putting it off because it isn’t any of those things, then shame on you. You need to go see this movie. It’s not to everybody’s tastes, I know people who more or less share my exact taste in movies but hated this, but I think you have to go see it and make you mind up. I loved it.

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Posted in: Movies, Review