Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The King's Speech

I have a terrible weakness for this sort of historical costume drama and I was not disappointed tonight. THE KING'S SPEECH features a cast of luminaries that includes Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Claire Bloom and Derek Jacobi performing a fine script that is sensitively and intelligently directed and beautiful to look at.

As you might expect from a cast of this calibre, the performances are uniformly fabulous. Firth, Rush and Bonham-Carter do some of the finest work of their careers here.

As with THE BLACK SWAN, this is a film about the nature of performance.
What does it take to prepare for the role of a lifetime, especially if you're an understudy who never expected to have to go on?

This time the hero is not a performer but a prince who rather than ardently desiring the starring role of king has "greatness thrust upon him".
When his brother, Edward VII abdicates for "the woman he loves" as England and its Empire teeters on the precipice of war, the incredibly decent Duke of York instantly ascends to the throne.

In the age of radio, this meant a lifetime of public speaking, broadcast globally. For a diffident man with with a bad stammer, speaking to and for his people is a potential disaster.

THE KING'S SPEECH is nominally about a great moment in history. However, the film is really an intimate portrait of an unlikely friendship between a King(Firth)and his speech therapist, a failed Australian actor(Rush).

Logue may not have a great stage career himself, but he realizes being the King of England is the part of a lifetime and he's not about to let his favourite client pass on a good gig.

The abdication is not romanticized in this film in any way. We see two weak, spoiled people take off leaving others holding a massive bag of duties and responsibilities in a very difficult moment.

In the end, honour, duty, perseverance, loyalty and bravery do carry the day. I enjoyed seeing the good guys prevail in a film with no car chases and explosions only alluded to. This is drama, not melodrama with a fairly stiff upper lip.

Tom Hooper dedicates the film to his grandfather who was killed in WWII. I'm sure he would have appreciated this old-fashioned, lovely hero's journey.

I doubt I'll see many better films this year.

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