The King’s Speech is a problematic movie for me. On the one hand, it’s a really great underdog story, the acting jobs were fabulous, and it’s a movie about hope in a time of darkness…but on the other hand is the history buff I know pointing out that he was hardly the only heroic figure or even inspiring orator of his age, and I can’t really disagree with that. In school we learned about Churchill, not the king.
But. Taking this as a movie, on an is it entertaining and was it well done and does it have an appeal for the modern audience level, I can answer yes to all of the above.
The story is fairly simple–Prince Albert (Colin Firth) has a problem with stuttering, and as the second World War approaches the shores of Great Britain and then sweeps the nation into war, he is thrust into the spotlight more and has to find a way to work through his speech impediment. The story begins well before Albert becomes King George VI, so we see not just the length of his struggle to become a public speaker but also many of the important events around the monarchy in the 1930s. One of the most interesting–and unintentionally (or so we have to hope) timely–inclusions is the abdication of his older brother Edward (Guy Pearce). I admit, I had no idea someone had abdicated the throne so recently until the furor about Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton brought it up. So then seeing that abdication contextualized created a nice feeling of synthesis for me, since that engagement has been in the news so much recently.
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush (as his speech coach, Lionel Logue) played off one another marvelously, and so did Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, as his wife. It was an understated performance from her, but I thought quite effective; she is fabulously talented, and sometimes drawing that in for a very subtle, supporting role instead of another over-the-top strange one can reinforce that much more powerfully–and that was the case with her performance here. Colin Firth made his part relatable with absolute aplomb; watching him struggle, you wanted to see him succeed.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this movie other than to heap praises on the actors for such fine work. It’s an historical piece that stays focused on the specific struggles of these people, rather than trying to do too much background and thereby losing the main story. The bulk of the movie is really a prelude to the last ten or fifteen minutes of it, but it’s an engaging prelude and a magnificent ending.
Definitely one for those who like human interest movies, WWII stories that are not war movies, or any of the three main actors involved. It’s heart-warming, amusing–chuckle-funny, not, like, uproarious–and triumphant. What more do you need, if you like that sort of thing?
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.