Saturday, March 05, 2011
#74: The King's Speech
The greatest movies are those that have in them an interplay of relationship, a sort of give-and-take, between two characters. And greater the difference in the relative standing between the two characters, better the drama. It's the classic screenwriting tool. And David Seidler, the screenplay writer of The King's Speech, employs it to perfection while telling us the story of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a commoner, failed theater actor, speech therapist and King George VI (Colin Firth), the monarch of Britain.
In director Tom Hooper's (his previous movie was the excellent The Damned United) able hands, The King's Speech plays out as a movie that tells about their friendship and their differences. Every movie has a pursuit laid out for the protagonist and in this one all King George VI is trying to do is get rid of his stammer with Logue's help.Less than 3 minutes into the movie, we learn of the King's impediment in public speaking. And in another 3 minutes, Lionel Logue is introduced. It is such crisp writing that adorns The King's Speech- a film that narrates the events of the royal family from 1934 to 1936. This includes the passing away of King George V, the abdication of the throne by his elder son, the presence of Winston Churchill as a political figure and most importantly the role Lionel Logue played in the life of King George VI.
The movie is the closest a motion picture can come to being poetic. The scenes play out with such nonchalant minimalism, the effect lingers on after a dialogue has been uttered. Much of the film's substance stems from the relationship between Logue and George VI - reminiscent of the kind of conversations Jeeves and Wooster would be party to. Logue is Jeeves- suave with his manners, unmindful but not irreverent of royalty and unabashedly witty. Geoffrey Rush is a picture of composed elegance in his character. Even with his middle-class background, he doesn't hesitate to put the King in his rightful place and that becomes a source of great mirth for the viewers. It's a pity he ran into Christian Bale for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year. If he was second in the race, it wasn't by much.
Colin Firth, the reluctant heir to the throne, plays the King with the right amount of anxiety and assurance. As the doting husband and father he has everything in his life except that his job requires a great deal of public speaking and he can't. His performance will stay with you because he's the one person in the movie who goes through the maximum range of emotions. Dealing with his father's death, his brother's abdication and the cheeky Logue don't come easy to him. Uneasy does lie the head that wears the crown but it's sits brilliantly on Colin Firth, the actor. His verbal one-upmanship with Geoffrey Rush is laced with such witty gems, it would've made P.G Wodehouse proud. Helena Bonham Carter, as the caring wife plays the perfect foil to her husband. The movie stands out because even though this is about the most famous family in England, it is not about royalty- for that you must watch The Queen. A word on the photography, which is surprisingly kept dark and morose. This is a movie about hope and inspiration and many times, during the movie, I thought the lighting could've been better. In a particular scene over dinner, you will barely be able to see the faces of the attendees. Having said that, there's not much you could find fault with in the movie.
The King's Speech is a masterful rendition of a true story. It's elegance will thrill you, and it's simplicity will amuse you. And it's straddles these two disparate worlds with such ease, the movie will become a memorable experience for you. The movie does owe a lot to it's two shining stars, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who dazzle in their roles. Without them, the movie would've been still watchable, but I doubt if it would've been this compelling.
P.S.: The story of how The King's Speech came about as a story makes for an interesting reading and you must look it up on Wiki if you liked the movie. Or actually even if you didn't.