Wednesday 12 January 2011

Review: The Kings Speech

Year: 2010 (U.K Release date 2011)
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenplay: David Seidler
Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush

Synopsis is here

I can't lie. Movies like this aren't my cup of tea. When I first heard about The Kings Speech I wasn't too impressed. Why? Period drama + overcoming disability+ Second World War = Oscar Bait. Add the fact that hardly any critic had anything negative to say about the feature and I found myself mucho worried. I shouldn't have such a bias but something that appears so suited for awards and loved by everyone always give me the feeling that I will be disappointed. One should always go into a film fresh, however everyone knows how easily swayed a person could be by everyone seemingly loving or hating a film. With all this considered; it is safe to say that to those still wondering if they should invest interest into a film like The Kings Speech, If you were to ask myself if you should watch The Kings Speech despite reservations, I would wholeheartedly say yes. I found much to enjoy in Tom Hooper's film; from it's wonderfully picked cast to it's charming wit, every aspect just seemed to fall in place for me. My hesitation was quickly brushed aside for it's lack of stuffiness and well drawn out themes.

The King's Speech is also the film that has made me stand up and truly recognise Colin Firth as an incredibly strong actor. Firth takes a role that in a lesser film would be considered goofy or pandering and infuses it with the humanity that many other "handicapped" roles forget. This isn't a caricature or   charity case (metaphorically and literately for the latter) in any shape or form, but a truly troubled man trapped within a family that is loving but can't/won't show it and the ominous dark cloud of war encroaching. Prince (soon to be King) George is reluctant to be King because of his issue but frustrated by his seeming inability to change it. Such conflict becomes more engaging due to the advent of a changing media world. We take broadcasting in it's many forms for granted because it's everywhere. Yet in the thirties we are thrown back to a time in which Royalty just needed to be seen and not heard. It's strange to watch such a struggle of one of the earlier Royal broadcasters in an era where typing in William and Kate will bring up millions of search results of the next Royal wedding. We can avoid this hype if we please. In 1939, King George had the undivided attention of every man, woman and child on these isles. If one finds it hard to comprehended now, imagine this man at that time having to rally this nation as one. It's mind-numbing. Firth contains all this contention beautifully with this performance. With this in mind it's understandable to feel his outbursts. Firth managed to make me feel on this contained inner conflicts. It is wonderful to observe.

He is supported by a well picked cast. Helen Bonham Carter is an inspired choice for the fretful Queen Mother, while Geoffrey Rush who may often be remembered for his more scenery chewing aspects (I've said his name, I bet your thinking Barbossa) understates everything here. The best scenes in the film involve Rush's Lionel absorbing King George's rages, he provides Firth a great foil.

The film maybe an acting showcase (I will not be surprised if Firth wins an Oscar) but it's not without some choice direction from Hooper. Whose choice of visuals with cinematographer Danny Cohen (Dead Man's Shoes, This is England) capture the isolation felt by The King who is stuck within a class that to some is considered cold. This awareness of space within the film is nearly always considered from the dialogue ("I was told not to stand too close") to the images providing the vastness of the space this man must conquer in his own life before anything else. Hooper, whose last film The Dammed Utd, provided an entertaining insight into male relationships and football management, once again takes a look at the friendships of men. Like before this main connection is just as punchy. What I enjoyed the most out of the relationship is that it is one that defies class in ways. The timing of it's release is spot on (royal wedding with a commoner remember?) but what's more important is having these two people come together despite being seemingly worlds apart.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Kings Speech. I was grabbed immediately by it's charms and was gladly welcomed it's unpretentious manner. As mentioned before, it's sometimes difficult to get your bias out the way, even when your not supposed to hold any. But The Kings Speech, with Firth's performance leading the way was a pleasant shock to the system.