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The King’s Speech

January 30, 2011

The King’s Speech (2010)
Director: Tom Hooper
Actors: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce

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Synopsis: The efforts of a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to install some skills and confidence in King George VI (Colin Firth).

Review: It’s long been a truism that lavishing a film with praise and accolades at awards season time is no guarantee of quality (take two recent Best Picture Oscar winners A Beautiful Mind and the execrable Chicago as cases in point). The film with this year’s hot buzz and awards ‘momentum’ – Tom Hooper’s competent, but wholly unremarkable The King’s Speech – merely underlines that a great publicity department can always drown out any piffling concerns over whether the film in question is actually any good. What is most baffling about The King’s Speech is just how familiar it all feels. Its ‘uplifting’, classical three-act structure is not just the bedrock of the Hollywood studio system, but even more bizarrely, the themes and narrative arc in this film have essentially been reprised before, merely with different circumstances and monarchs in John Madden’s Mrs Brown and Stephen Frears’ The Queen. As with those movies, the drama is more or less predicated on the degree to which one finds the central royal dilemma innately sympathetic, and the mere fact that Bertie had a stammer and it may have been brought about by an imposing father and the pressures of public service (poor him!) is simply not that poignant. Where I will side with some of the positive comment about the film is that it is commendably acted, with the Colin Firth – Geoffrey Rush central double-act turning in nice, unactorly performances (which is quite difficult to do when you’re affecting the persona of someone with a stammer). Director Tom Hooper also does a fine job with the limited material at his disposal – he visualises the story well in a drab London of mists, grey skies, and gloomy interiors – nicely reflecting Bertie’s frustrated attempts to break free from the shackles of austerity and repression. (January 2010)

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