Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: The King's Speech

The King's Speech is period drama devoted to the true story King George VI who took the throne after his older brother abdicated to marry a divorced woman (as the King of England and thus head of the Church of England, he wasn't allowed to do that) and was thus King during World War II. Despite all this he had a massive stutter and had incredible difficulty giving even short speeches. As a result he goes to a speech therapist who tries to not only give him physical remedies for his stuttering but also to try and treat the psychological issues at the heart of the stuttering. It resembles nothing so much as the result of someone crossbreeding Good Will Hunting with Thirteen Days and then transplanted it to England. But leaving all that aside, it's a good if not exceptionally unique movie.

As with most period dramas, the acting is at the heart of it. Colin Firth does an excellent job as King George VI (initially the Duke of York) managing to capture several different aspects of the person without turning him into a cliché. It's a great performance, though not QUITE good enough to pull away the top male performance of the year away from James Franco (though enough to give Robert Duvall a run for his money in second place). On the sidelines is Geoffrey Rush giving a fantastic performance as the speech therapist and the real powerhouse performance of the film. And along the way the film manages to pull an Aviator, IE getting a bunch of long proven performers in minor roles as historical figure cameos, such as Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter or Derek Jacobi. Oh and Timothy Spall is in it. Because wouldn't it be weirder if he weren't?

The script is rather excellent, keeping the plot engaging, even while it's not exactly concealing how it's all going to turn out. All the character beats and reveals come up organically, and while the story wouldn't have to strain to be touching, what's most surprising about it is that it's often very funny. What I find most interesting, at least from a historical perspective, is it's treatment of the romance between the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson. While most historical dramas treat as an incredible romance (him abdicating the throne for her), The King's Speech seems to regard it more as a selfish act, a fling that went too far.

The music is nice, if exactly what you're expecting from a movie like this. The camera work and lighting are fine, if bland, but I guess that's better than being shitty. All of it is kind of cliche, but it all works and is well made enough to be worth it on it's own. The cliches are there for a reason; they work. I don't know what else to say about it. It's a nice story, well told at a brisk pace, even if it's exactly what you're expecting from a movie like this. It really is very touching, so if you're inclined, go give it a look, if only so when it wins a bunch of awards in a few months you can say you saw it beforehand.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and if half of this is as true as it says it is, he wonders how it took this long to get made; It practically writes itself.

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