The King’s Speech (2011) by Tom Hooper (The Damned United (2009)) has been in cinemas around the world since late November and, in the US, its excutive producer Harvey Weinstein has had his eyes set on this year’s Oscars for quite some time. With the winners of the biggest film awards in world, not withstanding Bollywood ceromonies, to be announced later this month, it now seems that his renowned impatience will be rewarded as the movie is up for 12 gongs.
For cinemagoers in Belgium and much of the rest of continental Europe, it has been a longish wait, but hopefully it will be a worthwhile one. This is a solidly well made film, with strong performances by the two main leads Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, and a supporting cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon.
It will play well to anglophiles across Europe, as it has that measured pacing with a final emotional crescendo that closes the movie, think The Winslow Boy (1999). We Brits can’t do much more than that in a two-hour movie… but this should not put you off if you are not normally a fan of this kind of film.
Prince George (Firth), known within the Royal family as “Bertie” is second in line to the throne, but suffers from a terrible stammer, which we witness at the start of the movie as he tries to officially open the Empire Games at Wembley in 1925. The prince’s efforts are painful for those who are watching and listening, and the episode has a devastating effect on his confidence.
For a decade, George’s appearances are kept to those of well-wishing and factory openings, with his dashing elder brother Edward very much in the limelight. However, while suave and debonair, he also has all the characteristics of a playboy and finally ends up by upsetting upper-class society’s moral sensibilities by dating and then proposing to an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
In the meantime Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Bonham Carter) makes a final attempt to find a cure for his affliction, and visits eccentric Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Geographically and socially they are opposite ends of the world, and what ensues is a comedy of manners as they attempt to find some common ground.
What this film succeeds in doing is giving real emotional depth to an apparent bunch of ‘stiffs’. There is a delightful scene when Bertie makes up a story for his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret, and there are also several touching scenes between Firth and Bonham Carter and for cineastes a delightful moment when Bertie meets Logue’s unsuspecting wife (Jennifer Ehle) – they played opposite each other in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.
It also rounds out the relationship between Bertie and Logue with certain scenes containing language that would have been more appropriate in a public bar rather than at court, but then would do you expect from an Aussie teacher?
Following his brother’s abdication, the newly crowned George is faced again with the prospect of addressing the Empire and rallying it to do battle against Nazi Germany. Cue panic in government circles and a sense of foreboding among those close to the king. Will he succeed in giving the king’s speech that is needed? I will leave that for viewers to discover.