on 17 March 2015
I always resist watching films that are over-hyped by the Hollywood marketing machine, even when they are showered with accolades and awards, so that I can enjoy them with a rational and open mind when the hullabaloo is all over. This doesn’t always constitute the correct judgement, ‘The King’s Speech’ being one of the best examples of my missing out on a great movie experience until now.
This movie is not just another pompous and therefore quite irritating, costume drama. In fact, it is one of the greatest achievements in the history of the British film industry, that rightly deserves all the awards and accolades it has received.
Neither have I paid much attention to the director Tom Hooper until I saw this film. He directs the movie with an astounding virtuosity that puts him on a par with the greatest masters of the trade. He exacts not just brilliant, but unforgettable performances from all his cast. Perfectly crafted with harmonious contributions from every department, this is a movie experience like none other.
Underlying the very British humour and the inevitable pomp of a film of this genre, and therefore, making this film appreciable to even those who hate the very concept of royalty, there is the heart numbing, human drama of a family which has been centre stage in a centuries old circus that imprisons, constrains, grooms and showcases its performers in a brutal and never ceasing, medieval ritual. While, the tragic death of Princess Diana brought about a little, but much needed relaxation to the stuck-up attitudes of our royals, the family remains to be the robotic performers they have always been, an embarrassing reflection of how unwilling the British are to embrace change.
The reason why this film is a great achievement is that it unflinchingly emphasises the human suffering behind the grandiose exterior of our royalty, which in a modern democracy amounts to nothing more than a tourist attraction to say the least. As the Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle often retorts, ‘we should convert the Buckingham Palace into a theme park like Disney Land and make some real money’!
on 10 November 2011
Yes, the film is brilliant and deserves all the accolades it got. No argument there.
However as a product, this Bluray release is just a complete disaster. How could Momentum release a shoddy 1080i transfer of a practically brand new film? Worse than that, it runs at 25 frames per second rather than the standard 24: what this means is that the film is being sped up by roughly 4%, and hence the soundtrack is slightly squeakier.
The US version is in the correct 1080p/24Hz format, but is unfortunately region-locked (and the picture quality isn't brilliant there either from what I've read). My advice would be to wait for a decent release of this brilliant film (or get the cheaper DVD - at least you expect lower resolution and PAL speed-up on that) and avoid this at all costs.
on 5 January 2012
Oscar? I don't think so. Good night in with a few beers yes. Obviously the americans will love this nonsense but lets face it the couple are far too good looking, Historical detail wise its a bit all over the place, although the central story is fact. Tim Spall looks nothing like Churchill and Colin Firth just plays Colin Firth and good luck to him. I liked, what I presume is supposed to be the BBC Transmission HQ with its Heath Robinson look
This film has been much praised, and rightly so, for there is much to praise in it. It tells a compelling story. Albert - 'Bertie' - Duke of York is terrified of the possibility that he may become King, and King as war approaches too. His crippling stammer makes public speaking, or more correctly public reading, a nightmare of humiliation for him, and he is well aware that the opposing European power, Germany, is led by one of the most effective speakers of the age. He and his wife have sought the help of a controversial therapist, Lionel Logue, an Australian, a commoner of course and one who requires a degree of intimacy with his patients that is anathema to the Duke (he insists, for example, on calling him Bertie, a name used only by the family). The relationship between therapist and patient does not always go smoothly - how could it? - but in the end it is productive and George VI, as he becomes, recognises Logue not only as his saviour but as a friend.
That is a brief and incomplete summary of what happens in this film. It is largely (though not entirely - time is telescoped and the role of Churchill in the Abdication is misrepresented) true. On a human level, we watch a very brave but not always sympathetic man wrestle with a terrible handicap which has real implications nationally and internationally, assisted by one (Logue) who is expert, kindly and genuinely good (the real Logue used the revenues from rich patients to treat poor patients gratis).
In almost every way the film is well made and does justice to its subject. We suffer with Bertie at Wembley when, famously, he could hardly get a word out in front of thousands on the day and hundreds of thousands listening on the radio. We follow the tortuous course of the 'cure', when both Bertie and Elizabeth his wife work hard under Logue's direction, hoping that there will be success at the end of the day. In one shocking and moving scene we see the Duke turn violently on Logue and reject him (the reaction of Geoffrey Rush as Logue is excellent here). Finally we enter the small room where King George makes his first broadcast speech in Wartime, encouraged, supported, almost conducted by Logue, the only other person present. All of this is deeply involving.
The three central performances, of Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter (as the Duchess/Queen) and Colin Firth, are beyond praise. Firth has been singled out, rightly, in reviews (just today I've read an article in 'The Guardian' by a stammerer about how totally convincing his performance is, in ways which non-stammerers will probably not even be aware of). The film is often funny - there are some excellent lines. The social divide between Royalty and almost everyone else is clearly presented - the Duke muses that he really does not know anything about 'the common man', and there is ironic humour when Logue introduces the King and Queen to his wife, in their modest home - 'My dear, I do not believe you have met King George VI' ; Mrs. Logue, who has no idea that her husband has been treating this particular patient, cannot believe what she is seeing. On that point, some reviewers have been uneasy about the generally positive portrayal of Royalty (though not of Edward VIII, who is horrible to his brother, nor indeed of George V) in this film, but I think it has to be accepted that George VI did show extraordinary courage in facing and trying to conquer his affliction and this courage deserves to be applauded - which is what, literally, the cinema audience did at the end when I saw the film a few days ago. It's a feel-good film, but a very good one, and the story it tells, and tells very well, is more than worth the effort.
P.S. (17/2/11) It's nice to see this film winning 'Best Film' category at the BAFTAS and its three principal stars picking up awards for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor - all well deserved.
P.P.S. (28th. February) - well done to 'The King's Speech', winner of the best film category at the Oscars last night, and to Colin Firth as best actor - both well deserved.
on 2 July 2011
I recently spent an agreeable evening watching this. It's difficult to fault... and yet I can't quite see why so much praise has been lavished on it.
The acting is splendid, especially from the two leads and Firth deservedly won his Oscar; the script is also good, as is the cinematography and production design. Yet overall I felt the film solid rather than exceptional. To my mind it's certainly not Best Picture material.
Beneath the fine acting and sets I thought it was a bit hackneyed. In fact it made me think of another Best Picture winner - Rocky. It's essentially the same plot: down on his luck boxer/royal is thrust into the limelight (championship fight/made king), trains with a cranky specialist (Burgess Meredith/Geoffrey Rush), has a moment of doubt, then triumphs in the end.
Something else it reminded me of are those excellent one-off 90 min dramas that BBC2 specialises in. And perhaps that's the problem. It feels very small screen and yet somehow has become writ large: my expectations were over-hyped. Despite all this I did enjoy it, and I would recommend people see it, I just don't think it's quite as good as has been made out.
Two speeches demonstrate. 1926. Embarrassment at Wembley, the Prince's serious stammer convincing all he will forever need keeping well in the background. 1939. 3rd September, the day war was declared. He, now George VI, a revelation as he broadcasts to the Empire. Most movingly the film shows what happened in between....
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Bush are magnificent as the stuttering Royal and Lionel Logue, his unconventional Australian speech therapist - protocol totally ignored by the teacher, inhibitions gradually shed by the future king. Loosening up exercises, swearing and singing are all part of the treatment.
Disturbing revelations emerge of how the problems came to be - a little boy, naturally left handed, forced to use his right; legs encased in painful supports; a sadistic nanny; an overbearing father; an older brother everybody preferred. Here is an intensely personal portrayal - essentially an unassuming family man now thrust by fate into the limelight, the rest of his life to be spent outside his comfort zone.
Bonuses include a commentary, interesting contributions by many involved, recordings of two speeches by the monarch. There is an excellent interview with Logue's grandson - unearthed diaries causing much excitement, as well as major amendments to the script.
A gem of a film, illuminating and uplifting. It thoroughly deserves its praise and awards.
on 28 February 2011
I came to this movie with mixed feelings. I have never really cared much for Merchant Ivory films, Helen and Colin being very much part of that genre. But it was one of those wonderful surprises that one gets few too often in life. Colin Firth was simply magnificent in the role of 'Bertie' and Helena Bonham Carter as his caring wife, who obviously ascend to the throne after the abdication of his brother. Hating and loathing every minute of being thrust into the limelight Colin Firth begins a quest with the equally fabulous Gefrrey Rush to overcome a horrendous crippling stammer, bad enough for an ordinary guy, let alone the King of England. The film moves along at a lovely pace until the final dramatic war-time speech must be made by a nervous King. Now I am a man, brought up on the building site of life. The final 10 minutes had me blubbing like a baby, but it was tears of pure joy and happiness as we finally see a terrifc Colin Firth slowly rise to the challenge. The only remaining thing to say is this, it is the best feel good film you will probably ever see and you must see it. 10/10
on 18 January 2016
Think this film is superbly acted, by both main characters. There is great poignancy in many of the scenes, with the film maker giving careful treatment to the material to show that this damaged King had much to overcome, and this comes across very well. I am no royalist but this film takes you behind the scenes of the stiff upper lip mentality to show how even the highest born can be damaged by thoughtless, demeaning and brutal treatment of children. Will watch again, as it is a quality piece of cinema.
on 15 July 2013
Excellent film, that holds your attention from start to finish.
It's surprising how accurate the film makers made the speeches reflect the original ones.
This was the first Blu-ray I bought, but was disappointed with Blu-ray in general.
Yes, the sound quality may be marginally better than DVD but the lip-sync was often dreadful.
In future I will generally buy DVD which are almost as good on my TV, but cheaper.
This Blu-ray also has no means to resume the film if you turn off the player (unlike DVD's).
on 17 January 2011
You know a film has worked when it defies your best intentions. Not being especially fond of historical dramas, British High Society or (perhaps because he has tended to exemplify both) Colin Firth, but buoyed by exemplary reviews (usually hard-as-nails FT critic Nigel Andrews reported being left in tears) I went along to The King's Speech determined to be analytical about it: weighing up frame composition, lighting, that sort of thing - and intending to frame my review in terms the picture's success at the technical art of film making. I quite like that sort of thing. I got as far as noticing how nicely the frames were composed - the opening scene is an extreme wide shot of the 1925 Empire Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, itself disappearing into the fog, and punctuated dead centre by an antique microphone, suspended on the cross-hairs of its shock-mount. The frame is reversed and the crosshairs are revealed to be trained like a sniper target on poor old stammering Duke of York, at that stage still Albert prior to his character's coronation as George VI in 1936.
At that point in the film, three minutes in, wherein the Duke's glottal stops, gag reflexes and not much else ricochet emptily around the blanketed arena like stray crossfire, the assembled multitude looks guiltily at its shoes, my critical aspirations were neutered as the exquisite melodrama swept me away. The best I managed for the remainder of the film was to note the repeated use of extreme wide-angle lens (any wider and it would have been fish eye) to accentuate the magnitude of the buildings and, I suppose the institutions this poor chap was expected to inhabit.
Now I said I wasn't especially fond of Colin Firth as an actor, but I am now. Mr Firth utterly brings you in to the enormity of the world his character inhabits: it is a superb piece of acting. I dare say we've all reflected from time to time how awful it would be, in practice, to be royalty, but Firth's delicate yet assured performance makes it all so plain. You feel all of his pain: Unlike anyone else on the planet if pomp and ceremony, or for that matter complete isolation from casual friendship, is not your thing, you've simply no choice. To abdicate (the option favoured by Albert's older brother Edward) is to consign yourself forever into the wilderness of caricatured villainy. It had never happened before in the history of the British monarchy. But - so The King's Speech would have it - Edward was not cut out to be king. He was not of the right stuff. George VI, against his own better judgment, was.
So at its heart, in the King's Speech you have an achingly sorry story about a shy man compelled to speak boldly to a whole nation at its darkest time. That would be enough for a good film, but the surrounding performances, and the excellent screenplay, catapult it further.
Having tried all manner of cures, the disconsolate Duke's persevering wife is given one last recommendation: a particular Harley Street elocutionist by the name of Logue. Against all convention she pays him a visit. We immediately know something is not right as the elevator lurches downward, not upward, to a sparsely furnished basement with wrecked wallpaper and no receptionist. She is greeted directly by the elocutionist, a shirt-sleeved Australian, and he makes a facile excuse for not having a secretary. Nor does he make concessions for his guest's status. Australians don't have truck with that sort of thing.
Geoffrey Rush, playing the Australian, is excellent - suitable not just on account of his native laconic Strine-ness (if anything the Ocker is dialed back from normal) but also in his flawless comic timing. While there is a rustic solemnity to much of his performance, it is the lighter moments that set it off. The central helix here is the relationship between these two men: both outsiders, both unqualified for their tasks, both of whom would rather be doing something else (in Logue's case, amateur dramatics), but both uniquely positioned by their character to carry out their designated roles.
I'm pleased to report Helena Bonham Carter managed to slip her Burtonesque Gothic minders for this outing, and while there is just that hint of darkness about her performance - there always is - what you notice is how plausible a young Queen Mother (as most will remember her) she portrays. Timothy Spall's Churchill is, as you expect, played largely (but reverently) for laughs and Derek Jacobi is the closest we get to a villain (the real villain here is circumstance) as a rather judgmental Archbishop of Canterbury.
The talent is, needless to say, from the top shelf of British acting corps, and the pacing and staging of the drama is masterfully done. Flickfeast's Chris Knipp made the excellent observation that this is essentially a sports movie - the genre is overcoming insurmountable odds in the nick of time armed only with a motivational speech - in other clothes. And so it is, but it is so expertly done that you'd be hard hearted indeed not to fall for its charms.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I've been manipulated by a good formula weepie, but it was done so cleverly and tactfully that I really don't mind. Essential viewing. Best of British for tonight's Golden Globes, chaps: Pip pip!