Saturday, March 26, 2011

The King's Speech is simply sublime

Director: Tim Hooper

Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Gambon

The King’s Speech is one of those rare movies which can be ranked as greatest for making the most of simplicity. No complex plots, no mind blowing action sequences, no overdramatic histrionics. It’s a simple plot, going beyond the pretentious, focusing on real problems of real people, even if they are monarchs.

Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is the Duke of York, known as Bertie to his family, who doesn’t really have the gift of the gab. Far from it, the Duke has a problem with his enunciation with his constant stammer. The opening shot where the Duke has to give a speech through a microphone to vast crowds at the empire exhibition at Wembley Stadium, to be broadcast through the radio to the rest of the country, is poignant. Bertie is a picture of misery, top hat and all, as he struggles to get the words out which emerge with great difficulty. Standing beside the struggling prince is his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) who shares her husband’s anguish.

After meeting a bevy of speech therapists, some who even advise him to smoke as it relaxes the lungs, Prince Albert is introduced to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) by his enterprising wife. The extrovert therapist draws the introverted monarch from his shell with his calm yet witty demeanor. When King George V (played flawlessly by Michael Gambon), the mighty king who acknowledges the power of the broadcast media to his son declines into a weak, ailing man, it eventually falls in the hands of Bertie to set things right. With an elder brother who refuses to take the responsibility of leading the nation and the threat of Herr Hitler marching his army amidst threats of war, Bertie has to pull himself together and make a speech to the nation. In the process, Logue not just restores his speech but makes him realize that he has it in him to be a king, and a mighty good one at that.

Colin Firth as Bertie is marvelous. His anguish paints his patrician features while he struggles to maintain a studied arrogance, with a cigarette between his fingers. It’s not just the stammer which troubles him but also the fears of his ability to become the King. Firth’s witty retorts interspersed with short tempered outbursts are magnificent, especially the scene where he breaks down crying, feeling that he is incapable of being a King. Firth’s sublime portrayal of the struggling king deserves the Academy Award for the Best Actor and some more.

Helena Bonham Carter is a powerhouse of talent, as she isn’t your typical queen. Gutsy and incredibly honest, she’s the pillar of strength and a source of ingenuity as she effortlessly goes from the strong woman to the supportive wife with an unmatched feminine grace. However, Geoffrey Rush as the unconventional Australian therapist is mind blowing with his nonchalance and witty retorts, fighting aristocratic fire with uncharacteristic brilliance. The background score adds magic to the impeccable screenplay by David Seidler with subtle humour and slapstick dialogues.

Gone are the days where all a King had to do, according to his majesty King George V, was to look good in uniform and not fall off his horse. The King’s Speech portrays the pre-war England, where monarchs had to cross the thresholds of the people’s homes through radio broadcasts. While the winds of change blow, Bertie has to not just find his voice but also himself in the process. And while he does so, we watch in awe as it touches us somewhere deep within leaving behind, a contented sigh.

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