Sunday, August 14, 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Yes yes I know....this movie came out ages ago and here I am writing the review now. I have the lamest excuse ever for watching it so late and that is that I was busy (yeah even I'm rolling my eyes as I'm typing!). Honestly, I really have been wanting to watch this movie ever since I first heard about it. All the Oscar attention made me all the more inquisitive. This weekend I thought why put it off any longer. Armed with a bag each of Garett CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp popcorn, I sat down to watch The King's speech.

I thought it was a delightful movie. Very simple and beautifully made. Colin Firth is captivating as the main protagonist. I have always liked him. He completely deserves all the accolades that have come his way for his role in this movie. As King George VI who reluctantly become heir to the throne after his father's death and brother's abdication, he displays the more "human" side of the British monarchy. We always perceive royals to be perfect in every way....perfect in the way they talk, dress and conduct themselves in public. It is what is expected of them and for them to fall short of it is embarrassing not only to them but also to their people. So in this movie, we see the second son of King George V, the Duke of York, struggle with a serious speech disorder. He cannot complete a single sentence without stuttering, lapsing into awkward silences and breaking into a sweat. His eyes dart sideways filled with the angst of being a disappointment and he finds himself unable to focus when he has to read out a speech for a radio broadcast or speak in a public gathering. His attempt at delivering a closing speech on behalf of his father at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium turns into a disaster which demoralizes him further. His devoted wife Elizabeth seems to be the only person who is sympathetic to his anguish. Together, they consult several experts and try different methods to bring the stammering under control but of no avail. All these failed attempts end up infuriating the Duke of York to the extent that he gives up all hope of being able to conquer his speech impediment. When Elizabeth comes across an Australian speech therapist called Lionel Logue in the local classifieds, she coaxes her skeptical husband to give it one more shot. The story revolves around how the eccentric Australian with his unorthodox methods attempts to rid the King of his stammering. Getting through to the stubborn King proves to be one of the biggest challenges that Lionel has to face. As the movie progresses, you get an insight into the burdens of being a royal as the King's unhappy childhood, taunts and humiliation from his older brother, the loss of a loved one and and the demands of an unsympathetic father begin to surface. When the time comes for the King to deliver his own speech on Britain's declaration of war on Germany via a radio broadcast, you are sub-consciously rooting for him. That is the power of the connection that Colin Firth's character is able to evoke in the audience. As far as the other performances go, Helena Bonham Carter is such a gifted actress that she can convincingly play the role of a doting Queen (Elizabeth) and that of a wicked witch (Bellatrix) with equal ease. Geoffrey Rush as the King's speech therapist pitches in a great performance in a supporting role. The accessory characters are competent. But reiterating, Colin Firth steals the show all the way. This movie belongs to him and ironically, he leaves you speechless with his performance!

I don't know how accurately historical events have been depicted in this movie. It appears to be quite authentic in its treatment. I read somewhere that Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch and daughter of King George VI, was reported to be "touched by a moving portrayal of her father". I would think that the filmmakers would be as delighted with that as they would have been winning the Oscar for Best picture.
This is not just a movie about an individual's struggle with a speech impediment, it is a movie about conquering your fears, believing in yourself, trusting people and the power of friendship. What I enjoyed is the way the subject has been handled, peppered with humor, wit and a general light-heartedness.

My rating for this movie would be a 4/5. Watch it if you haven't done so already...

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