Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The King's Speech

Every Saint Valentine's Day, my parents volunteer to watch our kids for us while giving their own "kids" a date night. They love decorating the dining room just so, ordering in pizza, and making hot fudge sundaes for dessert, and the kids pull out the craft supplies to make Valentines for the whole family. Even our college-aged daughter made Valentines for us this year; unfortunately, my brothers' two kids couldn't join them.

After an early dinner at Outback, Keith took me to see The King's Speech, and it was indeed one of the best films I have ever, ever seen.

If you would like to read a complete review, this one is quite thorough: Beliefnet Review: The King's Speech

I've been a longtime Colin Firth fan, all the way back to his Mr. Darcy days in Pride and Prejudice, plus his more modern turns as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones' Diary (and its unspeakably awful sequel). We adored him in What a Girl Wants (including that classic dance in tight leather pants), worshiped afar in Girl with a Pearl Earring, laughed merrily in The Importance of Being Earnest (and very much liked his foray into singing), enjoyed the hijinks in Nanny McPhee, and sang and danced with him in Mamma Mia!. For me, it's his expressive eyes and the timbre of his voice--both remind me of my husband (although my dear one lacks the British accent). I haven't seen A Single Man yet--it looks a little raw for me.

Colin Firth was spectacular in The King's Speech--his eyes are so expressive of pain and suffering while his face remains royally stoic. He is simply amazing as King George VI, father of the current Queen. And he most definitely deserves the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work. It is deep, stunning, heart-wrenching, funny at times, and wonderfully triumphant--everything one would want in a film.

And the supporting cast was incomparable. Geoffrey Rush of course is stellar in his humor, his pathos and his blessed ordinariness; Helena Bonham Carter is beautiful, elegant, strong, and poignant. But the rest of the supporting cast shines just as brightly: Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films) as King George V and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail in HP) as Churchill were extraordinary. Then Anthony Andrews (who played the title role of The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymour) as a prime minister, Derek Jacobi (whom I remember best for his role in Kenneth Branagh's film noir Dead Again) as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennet in Firth's version of Pride and Prejudice as the speech therapist's wife were superb. One of the funniest lines was when Jennifer Ehle's character is introduced to Colin Firth's with something like, "I don't believe you two have met." :)

There definitely is a good deal of bad language in this film (the reason for its "R" rating), but it's almost funny as foul words are used as speech therapy. Our own family has seen this phenomenon in action when my great-uncle couldn't speak after his stroke, but could he ever curse a blue streak! One can't help but be moved by this film, and as the darkness of Hitler's power began to overshadow Europe, England stood bravely for right, truth, and honor, and England's voice of reason and bravado during this troubled time became King George VI, helped through every speech by Lionel.

I definitely needed my handkerchief which ended up very mascara-stained by the end of the evening. The screenplay has been decades in the making (and also deserves an Academy Award), the producers waiting until the death of the Queen Mother to proceed with the film, by her request. It's a truly wonderful film, and I sincerely hope it wins many awards at the Oscars later this month. The King's Speech certainly deserves them.

Cinematically yours,


sarah said...

I really must get around to seeing that film.

If you liked Derek Jacobi, you should see him in some wonderful old Shakespeare movies. Marvellous actor.

Susanne Barrett said...

Yes, I've seen him in several Branagh productions plus I've seen photos of him in my favorite Shakespeare book. I definitely need to look up some of his earlier roles. Thanks!! :)

Jane D. said...

This is a really great tribute to this film Susanne. I definately think I shall be purchasing this one, the children wanted to see it but because of the language warning we wanted to see it first. I agree though that the way it is used just fits perfectly with the style of therapy that was used and I think my children will be able to appreciate that. Films like this are a great way to teach our children history. I didn't know that they had been waiting for the death of the Queen Mother at her request before doing the film - very poignant.

Susanne Barrett said...

Yes, Jane--I watched Katie Couric do a half-hour long online interview with Colin Firth, and he mentioned the wait for the Queen Mother's death. She felt it could reflect poorly on her husband and diminish his memory. But Queen Elizabeth stated that she thought the story about her father was inspirational, and she very much supported its making and release.

Yes, such an incredible glimpse into history, isn't it? We're planning to purchase it too, and we buy very few movies.


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