By: Addison Wylie
George, played marvellously by Colin Firth, is a strong but timid man. As much as he’s a family man who cares passionately about his royal family tree, George possesses a harsh speech impediment that makes him nervous. He tries to focus on the words in the written speeches he’s given to by his father King George, played by Michael Gambon, but he just can’t seem to overcome the verbal obstacles. After seeing numerous speech therapists, George’s wife Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter, still strives to help her beloved husband with his impediment. Elizabeth hears about a certain therapist who goes by the name of Lionel Logue who is exceptional at defeating stutters. Logue, played by an equally marvellous Geoffrey Rush, meets a suspicious George and after long talks and a test exercise, Lionel convinces George that his methods of treatment can have an impact on George’s speaking patterns. Meanwhile, when King George becomes ill, there are talks about the controversies that will be involved if George’s eldest son David, played by Guy Pearce, takes the throne. Being that David is married to a divorcée, he may be forced to resign from the position making George the King.
The King’s Speech, for the most part, is a competently made film with distracting elements. There are smart people behind the project and the performances are outstanding. There’s a meticulously written script penned by David Seidler filled with period details as well as interesting methods that help our lead character with his flaw. However, the film has a hard time dealing with subtleties.
First of all, the cinematography. As I watched TV spots and a trailer for the film, I couldn’t help but be entranced by the off-kilter camera work. The film starts off with a well staged shot of a recording studio. The microphone is in the foreground while the background is out of focus. Besides an opening title card, even though the audience sees very little of the room, the setting is established well and we can connect with when this film is taking place judging by the details in the set and in the props. The film continues to showcase oddly attracting shots to us that help establish tones, people, and settings. Take the scenes where George and Lionel are talking to one another. There are shots where Colin Firth has been framed in the bottom left of the screen while the rest of the shot is occupied by negative space. There’s nothing significant occupying this space; it’s just the concrete wall the couch is resting upon. The shots of Rush’s Lionel are framed so that his medium shot is framed, this time, in the bottom right corner while we see his kitchen behind him. Although these shots may seem creative at first, this soon turns into a problem for Director Tom Hooper’s film. The cinematography performed by Danny Cohen is stunning at first but turns tiresome. A few of these inventive camera shots go a long way. When the audience is subjected to excessive off-kilter shots, Hooper missteps and causes his audience to be distracted by the style of the movie rather than keeping the focus on the story.
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Ah, yes. The story. Seidler’s script incorporates interesting and important factors including strong messages about overcoming obstructions and how to become a more confident individual. It’s a shame that the film has been rated R in America because I feel these are points that young people may find inspiring and that they could apply, in their own way, to their lives. That aside, the content about the royal family is very dry. When David enters the film, the pacing presses on the brakes making scenes feel drawn out. Not being a history fanatic, it felt as if the portions involving George’s royal family were very faithful to the historic evidence but Seidler and Hooper refuse to make the material engaging. I was finding myself growing anxious; waiting for more scenes of Rush and Firth firing off quips and trying to overcome George’s vocal handicap.
The King’s Speech, although made by competent people, feels very plain. However, other than the relevant messages the movie provides, I’d recommend checking it out for the terrific leading performances. Firth chalks up another fine performance in his career and Bonham Carter is absolutely great in this well written supporting role. The actor I hope doesn’t get overlooked is Geoffrey Rush. Rush brings a kind, compassionate attitude to the character of Lionel Logue making this a persona the audience wishes they could see more of. It’s one of the most memorable supporting roles I’ve seen in quite some time.