Sunday, January 09, 2011

Review: Kings Speech

Image (c) The Kings Speech
The Kings Speech is currently 'all the rage' in awards circles. It's not difficult to see why, in terms of British-ness this film has it all, glamour, humour, an element of class-war and an underdog wanting to come good. Therefore it was with some excitement, but also some antipidation, that I set out to view this film. Would it live up to the wild acclamations or would it turn out to be more like something that everyone wishes to give respect to without knowing why. My answer has to be a definite yes! This film is lovingly shot and has a enjoyably manipulative soundtrack. While script editors may have taken some historical liberties, their only true failing was to mix the rise of Nazism into the story. Anyone good on their history may question why I say that, but for me the personalities were lost in the stories focus altering to look towards war. This was clearly demonstrated by a caricaturist Churchill played Eocene gallery and shaking his jowells in concern at the war ahead. His character is written and acted like a pantomime hero and generally detracted from the story. Why? Because the film thrived on it's characters and the marvellous narrative of challenging situations out of everyones control. The drama is never in the situation but instead how the characters react. However, caricatures of Churchill aside, this film is a stunningly lush portrayal of character acting. The story of Colin Firth learning to stammer (method acting) is covered elsewhere so, instead, I'm got to pile my praise on the lesser characters.... Queen Mary is a woman I have only ever seen in staged Black and White photos. In this film she comes alive in a portrayal as a matriarch with a very stiff upper lip who will do her utmost to keep "the firm (royal family)" going. One of her most glorious moments is when the King has died. Edward (the one who abdicates) turns to his mother and crumbles, in a heap of tears, on her shoulder. She responds by staying frozen to the spot, battling disgust at emotion with a glimmer of parental love. Another star turn is the character of Archbishop of Canterbury Played as a meddling doddery old fool his every interjection made clear why the 'automatic' right to advise doesn't always mean you are the right person to advise! His star turn occurs during preparation for coronation in Westminster Abbey. The king has discovered a challenging issue in his speech therapists past. It becomes clear the therapist isn't favoured by the ABC who enters to inform the king that he had appointed a 'more suitable' candidate. The tension in the scene is wonderful and I won't spoil it by saying who wins.
Image (c) The Kings Speech
To finish, though, I must comment on an element of Firth's acting. He has perfected the look of sheer, blind, panic that engulfs anyone who has a "hidden" or fluctuating disability. The eyes loose their sparkle and the sweat begins. I've been heartened since the screening by the generally positive reviews about this portrayal from disabled writers. Ultimately this film delivers on what it promises. However, to fully appreciate it please see it in the cinema. It's truly made for the big screen and, you should always respect a cinematic film even if you don't respect the royals.
Image (c) The Kings Speech

1 comment:

  1. Great review, John! I loved The King's Speech, too - just saw it last weekend. Really enjoyed nearly every aspect of it. Made me read a bit about the abdication crisis, I can't understand why they didn't have Churchill backing Edward (as he did in reality) and thereby make him a bit of a 'bad guy' - would have been so much more unusual and interesting than Spall's jowl-wobbling. Otherwise, pretty flawless.

    Hope you're well!

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