Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The King's Speech

I've always said that I love movies too much to be a critic so these film snippets are merely my observations and opinions.

I saw "The King's Speech" recently and it is indeed one of the top 5 films of the year, a sure Oscar contender for best picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper, best known for his superb HBO mini-series John Adams ), Best actor (Colin Firth as King George VI.), Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush as the King's speech therapist) and probably Best Supporting Actor, female (Helena Bonham Carter as the King's wife). [as I said earlier, I tend to avoid the diminutive term 'actress,' as all are actors]

I'm not an Anglophile or a fan of the British royals nor do I care much about them either way. That said, two of my favorite recent movies, The Queen (about QE2) and The King's Speech (about QE2's father), have been about the royals. This is one of the things I love about movies, the way they open a window onto worlds outside our immediate experience and in the best of them make us care.

Geoffrey Rush, the great Australian actor (who first came to my attention in Quills and whom I also enjoyed in Elizabeth, Frida, and the Pirates of the Caribbean) is great as the Australian speech therapist to the man untimely thrust onto the throne. Colin Firth (best known for Bridget Jone's Diary, Love Actually, and the Single Man) is also stellar as the younger son of the dying King George V. He's the brother of the Duke of Windsor, the heir to the throne, who famously abdicated the throne to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, thrusting Colin Firth's Duke of York onto the throne despite a debilitating speech impediment, a stammer.

The drama comes out of the importance of the newly crowned King George VI., with his stammer and his paralyzing fear of public speaking (I can relate) rallying his subjects in a single nationally broadcast speech as Britain declares war against Hitler's Germany. Helena Bonham Carter ( I first remember her in Lady Jane, as the Queen who served for 19 days before her beheading) is moving as the wife of the Duke turned King, the one who contacts Geoffrey Rush after countless failed attempts to find a cure for the Duke's stammer.

Ultimately, this is a love story: the love of wife & husband, the love of King for commoner (the speech therapist, his first non-royal friend), and the love of King for Country.

As a historian I am struck by the extraordinary resemblance of the actors to their characters. The Duke of Windsor (Guy Pearce) and Wallis Simpson (Eve Best) looked like they stepped out of the famous Avedon portrait. Timothy Spall (Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies) is almost as good as Sir Winston Churchill.

Ultimately, a very satisfying, deeply moving movie. Four stars out of Four.

Now I am torn, Oscar-wise. Do I stay with Christian Bale from The Fighter for best supporting actor or Geoffrey Rush for the King's Speech? Actually Firth and Rush should go head to head in the category of Best Actor as both are lead performances. Helena Bonham Carter will have to compete with Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Melissa Leo (the Fighter) for Best Actor, female. Of course this may all change after I see 127 hours and the Black Swan in the next few days. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Michael A. Gonzales said...

I thought you might dig this...