Saturday, August 27, 2011

The King's Speech

The King's Speech is a 2010 film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler on King George VI's quest to overcome his stammer with the help of an Australian speech therapist by the name of Lionel Logue.

The King's Speech won 'Best Picture' at the 83rd Academy Awards, their most prestigious award.

Colin Firth "Winner of the Academy Award for 'Best Actor'" as King George VI of Great Britain
Geoffrey Rush "Winner of the BAFTA Award for 'Best Actor in a Supporting Role'" as Lionel Logue
Helena Bonham Carter "Winner of the BAFTA Award for 'Best Actress in a Supporting Role'" as Queen Elizabeth

The movie begins in 1925 with the Duke of York, Prince Albert, presenting, with a heavy stammer, the closing speech at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London. He seeks professional help in order to cure him of his stammer but all is for naught, leaving Bertie  infuriated by their obvious failure, screaming that he will no longer accept any form of treatment. 

Prince Albert's wife, Elizabeth, still hopeful, plays her last hand when she seeks the help of the radical speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Albert agrees to see 'Dr. Logue' but is unhinged by the man's lack of formality and his  insistence on the Prince calling him by his Christian name, Lionel, and by referring to the Duke of York by his family nickname of 'Bertie'. In order to convince Prince Albert to follow through with his unorthodox procedures, Lionel bets the man a shilling that he can read perfectly at that very moment. When Albert's first try of reading the famous Hamlet soliloquy 'To Be or Not to Be'  falls through, Bertie is certain that he's a hopeless case, but Mr. Logue thinks otherwise. Logue says he will record Bertie's reading on a gramophone record and requests that Bertie try once again to read aloud but this time with loud music blaring in his ears. Believing that he had stammered through the entire reading, Albert leaves - with the gift of the recording - in a rage, determined not to come back.

Christmastide 1936, King George V, aged Father of Prince Albert, is delivering his annual Christmas address, stressing to his son the importance of broadcasting to the modern monarchy, where the populace is now in control. And the reason that George is so concerned about preening his second son for this daunting task, is due to his eldest son's, Prince Edward "David" of Wales, fixation with the twice married (both husbands still living), Wallis Simpson saying that David will be the complete ruin of Great Britain and the - recently renamed - House of Windsor. Bertie reluctantly agrees to try his hand at the address but same as always, he falls short, much to the disappointment of his Father. In despair, Albert plays the recording of himself reading Hamlet and surprisingly not once does he stutter. Prince Albert returns to Logue and the two begin working on the pure "mechanical" reasons behind his stammer, doing tongue exercises, strengthening his diaphragm, etc. all with positive results.    

In 1936, George V dies, causing a distraught Bertie to come to Lionel for emotional advice and support. In this session, Lionel discovers the physiological roots behind Bertie's affliction: Berte's domineering Father (George V reportedly saying 'I was afraid of my Father and my children will damn well be afraid of me') who encouraged his other children to pick on the second son ('B-B-B-B-Bertie' the called him), and repressed left handedness, his locked knees and the agonizing treatment, his first nanny who favored David more than him and treated him most cruelly (pinching him, not feeding him, etc.) and his younger brother, Prince John.  These revelations help push the men to become friends.

The newly crowned Edward VIII, David is now more determined than ever to marry Mrs. Simpson and now with his Father gone, no one is there to stop him. When Bertie confronts his elder brother about the growing problem of Wallis, he is immediately shot down by David who counters by picking on Bertie's stammer (even though it has grown less prevalent through his time with Lionel Logue) and calling him by that awful nickname just as he did when they were children. This demonstration by Edward, reverts Albert back to his stammering old self. He checks in with Lionel to discuss the events ('The second son overthrowing the eldest son, why it's p-p-p-p-positively medieval')  as the conversation continues Logue presents the idea to the Prince in denial that he may be King. The man's word infuriate the Duke of York and after several insults to the man, he declares that the sessions between him and his "Doctor" are over.

Despite the Bertie's best efforts to, Edward VIII officially abdicates on December 11, 1936 and Prince Albert, Duke of York becomes King George VI (A named chosen by Winston Churchill, seeing as Albert was too 'Germanic'). With a myriad of new tasks and responsibilities and much, much, MUCH more public speaking/broadcasting, the new King (with the persuasion of the new Queen) visits Lionel, in the latter's home, and apologizes for their last encounter. When the King requests that "Doctor Logue" be seated in the King's box ( where he would be in close contact with other members of the king's family ), the Archbishop of Canterbury conducts an investigation on "Dr. Logue's" qualifications. When Bertie confronts Lionel about his lack of credentials ('True, you never called yourself Doctor, I did'), Logue explains that his origin as a "speech therapist" working with shell-shocked soldiers from the great war. Albert, still rather unsure of himself, realizes his full potential when he chastises Logue's disrespect for the monarchy (Lionel found it necessary to seat himself on St. Edward's Chair, 'The chair that every King and Queen...' sits for their coronation). The coronation was a success.

In September 1939, Great Britain declares war on Germany, and George VI is set to broadcast an address to the people of Great Britain and the Empire; he summons Logue to his side immediately. George delivers the perfect speech, with Logue beside him every step of the way, to millions of his citizens.  Afterwards, when the King and his family steps out onto the balcony, they are welcomed by adoring crowds.

"King George VI made Lionel Logue a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1944....Lionel was with the King for ever wartime speech....Bertie and Lion remained friends for the rest of their lives"

I give this movie a 4.5/5. I loved this movie. Clear and simple. It had some of the best performances in the history of film!  Everyone in the cast took my breath away with their stellar performances. I adore Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth of Bowes-Lyon, stunning was what she was. Guy Pearce was the perfect Edward VIII, the resemblance in uncanny. The plot was exceptional, new and innovative, the ending was so sweet! Lionel was such an entertaining character, thank you Mr. Rush. My only complaint (and it's not really even a complaint) is this sense of it being rushed, very much like my other review on another George VI's movie, 'Bertie and Elizabeth'. Otherwise, it was fabulous. Definitely recommendation from moi.

P.S. Recommendations for other films or books are appreciated.