Saturday, January 8, 2011

The King's Speech

There is nothing more comforting than a British period drama. If all else fails, The King’s Speech will appeal to the historian side of my brain. So it got to start with that solid foundation, then went on to deliver one of the best films I've seen this year.

It would seem that there is some sort of anglophile buried deep inside my cranium. Once I hear those accents and see those clothes and realize that I’m somewhere in British history, I’m already in favor of whatever film I am watching. The King’s Speech is the story of King George VI as he deals with his stuttering problem while also ascending to the throne. Even better … a story about British royalty! There is nothing better than witnessing the peculiar world that British royalty lives in. This film was full of royal intrigue as King George V passes away and is succeeded by King Edward VIII but he abdicates the throne because he wants to marry a divorced woman (well I never!) and this puts his younger brother, George VI, on the throne. Just watching that line of succession would have been enough for me, but while this was happening George VI was attempting to overcome his crippling speech impediment. This lead to fantastic scenes of a member of the royal family being treated by an Australian commoner in order to be able to speak to the British public as a true figurehead needs to. All of this climaxes with a phenomenal scene where King George VI delivers a stirring radio address to the people as the British Empire declare war on Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II. I love this stuff.

Another joy of British period films is the great actors that always fill the roles. Colin Firth takes on King George VI and delivers a performance that will easily net him multiple nominations. First off is his very realistic and cringe inducing stutters; there are multiple scenes that are painful to watch as Firth cracks under the pressure of being in front of microphone while unable to string together the first sentence of his speech. He also shines as the monarch coming to power at the same time as World War II begins to become inevitable. Firth has a very capable actor to play against during his speech therapy sessions in Geoffrey Rush. Rush is always fun to watch and delivers his usual stellar performance as actor turned therapist. Helena Bonham Carter portrays Firth’s wife, Queen Elizabeth. Its always a trip to see her not be psychotic. The smaller roles are equally as strong, with Michael Gambon as King George V, Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII, Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill. This was just a fantastic British cast.

Although this is your standard historical drama, The King's Speech was able to provide a phenomenal climatic scene with King George VI overcoming his handicap to rally the English people. For half a second, I wanted to be a Brit in 1939 then I remembered that the Nazis proceeded to bomb the hell out of that country for years to come and came to my senses.

The King's Speech may not find a spot in my rewatchable movies list, but that doesn't subtract from the quality of the film. Every year needs a couple of movies like this and I'm always happy to support them.

9 out of 10

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