My Ten Cents On: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech presents the story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it. (from imdb.com) King George VI had an uncontrollable stutter, a habit which made him lose all sense of power and  majesty among his audience. After a disastrous speech at Wembley Stadium, he tries several different speech therapists to help him speak publicly. In a last ditch effort, his wife seeks out Lionel Logue, a speech therapist from Australia known for his unorthodox techniques. At first, George VI (known as Prince Albert at the time, “Bertie” to his friends) and Logue don’t get along, but when he suddenly has to take up the mantle of King during the empire’s most trying time, the two work together in order to make a monarch out of him, one that could rally an empire under his banner. I know, it’s amazing, right? It’s quite the interesting story, and in my opinion, it may just take the prize at the Oscars. To paraphrase Elizabeth Barret Browning: “Oh, how do I love this movie? Let me count the ways…”

+ The Acting

It takes a lot of skill to be SAG-ed.

The three title actors, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, are simply magnetic.

Colin Firth, well, he’s already made a living of the Hugh Grant-esque British, quirky, stammering vibe (Mamma Mia!, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’ Diary) . In fact, he’s dong this so well that its kind of odd seeing him as a Medieval Knight (The Last Legion). He does a great acting job in a lot of his films, its just great that he found that role that gave him the recognition he’s deserved a dozen times over.

Geoffrey Rush is awesome as usual. That man is like an older Johnny Depp, not that they’re both in Pirates of the Caribbean, but in that he can play such a huge spectrum of (usually quirky) characters. He was Captain Barbossa, Peter Sellers, and the beloved Casanova Frankenstein from Mystery Men. In this movie he does a great job of fleshing out an irreverent Aussie who is both a speech therapist and a struggling actor.

But the beauty of the performance is in how the two characters play off each other. The dynamic between the two is a marvel to watch, and you see the two characters grow and change throughout the course of the movie. Its the acting equivalent of seeing a sculpture being chiseled out in front of you. The timidity of King George the First in the beginning, and his character by the end are miles apart, and you see every little step that takes him there. Its rare that a movie does a good job of showing such a dramatic transformation in a character without using a Mercutio-esque character.

I know Mercutio's supposed to draw attention to himself, but I don't think Shakespeare meant for him to do it like this...

For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Mercutio was a character from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and a very important one at that, as well as my favorite character. Granted, they screwed him up in the Baz Luhrmann movie, but the reason why I love him isn’t because of what he’s said or how he’s characterized. The whole reason why I love Mercutio is because he dies. He’s the character who, upon his death changes the tone of the piece of literature all the way through, and after him, countless movies, books, and comics have had those characters whom you grow to love, and when they die, it just changes the whole complexion of the story, and the other characters. I love Mercutio simply for bringing that kind of character to the fore. We’ve seen it over and over again, Obi Wan Kenobi is killed by Darth Vader, Mufasa gets pushed into a stampede by Scar, Cedric Diggory gets Avada Kedavra-ed. And if you’re shocked by these spoilers. YOU DESERVE IT FOR NOT WATCHING THESE MOVIES BY NOW.

Anyway, back to the point, most movies show dramatic change like that, rarely do they successfully show a character slowly transitioning into a position of awesomeness. Although one could argue he was forced to do it since he was suddenly thrust into the position of king, however when he was first named king, he didn’t suddenly change in his persona, you saw him develop the whole way through, like watching those people who looked so homely and weird in high school as they bloom in college, seeing every step they took.

+ The Cinematography

Every traceable line, from the machines to the lights leads into a vanishing point at the end. Looks pretty, doesn't it? There are a lot of these in this movie.

I apologize in advance, as this part of the review is going to become quite academic. This movie is a cinematography masterclass. Many of the scenes are shot with such a level of symmetry that they look like something out of a Stanley Kubrick movie. It uses the right framing of lines and shapes to paint the world in front of our eyes (equal or even greater credit should go to the set design and costumes, but we’ll get to that in a bit). These give the movie an unrivaled air of class and nobility, and just add so much towards the similar themes of the movie. But apart from making the movie epic-pretty, they also serve as literary devices.

The angles of the camera help tell the story, and magnify the emotion the actors are portraying in the scene, a little bit like Black Swan (which I reviewed here), though with totally different emotions being depicted. In The King’s Speech, the camera has more to do with showing his level of self-esteem, and as the story progresses, so too do the camera angles, most clearly shown in the disparity between King George‘s shots in his speeches and those of when he’s talking with Logue. In his early speeches, he’s surrounded by people yet looks so isolated, even worse when he meets with Logue the first time. Then the camera angles (and the acting as well) develop over the movie and he becomes a much more powerful and confident figure by the end.

My... my... my... my... my... Sharona.

Thurst to the corner, with so much space around him, he looks like he's small, scared and trapped. yes?

Confidence is building. The symmetry of the shot and blocking adds to the center figure's stature. Can you see it?

The King's Vibe.

When the camera can tell the story on its own, even without movement, you know you have a real artist plotting the shots, and this movie is really a work of art in that respect, and in several others.

+ Set and costume

The set was amazing, every scene felt authentic, and never did it lose the 1930’s-1940’s feel of it. The thing with set and costume is that, when done badly, even in the background, it snaps the viewer out of the illusion and reminds you: “Yeah, I’m just watching a movie.” My single greatest criterion for a movie to be great is that I totally forget, while watching, that its a movie. I get sucked into a world that exists outside of my own, I fall for the characters, and never once find something weird with it. To illustrate, if you remember The Matrix (the one that didn’t suck), Neo starts noticing glitches, minor ones at that, in his world and thus questions reality. Same could be said about movies, if they aren’t pieced together with extreme care and effort, it just reminds you that you’re watching a movie. Some movies do that intentionally, but that’s another topic of discussion altogether. Anyway, my point is that this movie seems to effortlessly transport me into a world in the past, and it takes a lot of effort for something to seem effortless.

+ Plot

The fate and morale of an entire nation rests in the hands of a stuttering member of royalty and his ability to curb his speech impediment. That is possibly one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard. It says so much about the power of the spoken word to a people, and the pressures of what we generally acknowledge as a figurative leadership role. It doesn’t hurt that its pretty inspiring to boot. He’s a guy with a horrendous speech impediment who had to train himself talk to millions of British citizens who were about to go into one of the most devastatingly large wars the world has ever seen, if that’s not the very definition facing adversity and kicking its unforgiving ass, I don’t know what is.

A friend of mine recently said to me: “You do know that the movie is historically inaccurate right?”. Well, dear, I’ll concede its historical in-authenticity proudly, because it doesn’t matter for me. Movies are allowed to take liberties in their stories. What’s the more popular recounting of Dec. 7, 1941? The historically accurate Tora! Tora! Tora! or Pearl Harbor? Gladiator and Braveheart also took some liberties in the plot, yet they are some of the most awesome movies in existence. But okay, in all fairness, I’ll tell you all now, this isn’t meant to be a history documentary, its still a work of fiction, albeit slight fiction with the foundation and skeletal structure of actual historical events. That doesn’t make this movie any less amazing.

Okay… so we talked about the positive aspects of the movie, here are the negative parts.

Yeah…

I’ll tell you right now, I’m biased. But, since I spent the last 1600+ words above telling you exactly why I’m biased, I’m hoping you’ll forgive me. I can’t think of anything that this movie could improve on, nor can I think of one bad thing I can say about it. I’ve pushed back this review and watched it twice more, but I still couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound forced. I’m not saying this is the perfect movie, nothing’s perfect, and neither am I. So if there is something in this movie that is substandard, it would take a more film-literate man than I to figure it out.

My Cent’s Worth: 10/10

There’s a saying that goes: “I may not know art, but I know what I like.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, I know my art, I know my science, and I love this movie. I don’t know how the future generations will see this, but I feel that The King’s Speech will go down in history as one of the greatest movies of all time. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do, because even if you and I don’t see eye-to-eye, I guarantee that this movie will uplift you and leave you with a better feeling than the one you had before. Cheers. :)

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Posted on March 6, 2011, in Film Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Your blogs are amazing! the king’s speech really deserves a 10. I have seen this movie so many times and i never get sick of it. Is it alright if i show this blog to some of my co-workers? (btw, keep blogging man it’s really working out for you!)

    • Steve! Thanks! I really appreciate your comment. Please, feel free to share this with your co-workers! At the end of the day, this blog’s about sharing my love for movies, the more the merrier! :D

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