Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The King's Speech

We've just been to see The King's Speech, a good old-fashioned movie with a literate script, good parts for the actors to play, and a situation that's emotionally involving for the audience.

The two main parts are played by Colin Firth, as the soon-to-be king, George VI, and Geoffrey Rush as the Australian speech therapist who manages to get the King past his terrible public stutter and into a place where he can actually speak clearly and (mostly) safely in his public persona.

It's often very funny, with both Firth and Rush getting a share of the good retorts to the other's statements, and for once Rush doesn't have to play the part to the extreme in order to present an interesting performance. Firth's stutter seems as natural as is possible for any actor to present, and he brings the audience alongside him bit by bit, turning from a man who's always expected to say and do the right thing into someone whose humanity is gradually allowed to shine through.

Helena Bonham Carter plays the woman who would eventually be known as 'the Queen Mum'; at this point she's a woman of strength and character, and considerable support for her struggling husband. There are a bunch of other great British actors, including Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Claire Bloom, but few of them have any great length of screen time.

It occurred to me during the film that George VI must have died relatively young; his daughter Elizabeth succeeded him in the early fifties, and he only came to the throne a few years before the war, when his somewhat harum-scarum brother (as he's portrayed in the movie) abdicated. Of course, I only need to check out Wikipedia to get at the facts: George (or Albert as he was actually called until he ascended the throne) was born in 1895 and became king in 1936, when he was 41. He died in 1952, when he was only 57, after only 16 years as king. His brother, known as Edward VIII, was on the throne barely a year - 325 days in fact, and was never officially crowned. Edward wasn't just harum-scarum; he was a considerable womaniser. As his former private secretary, Alan Lascelles, wrote (not very privately) "for some hereditary or physiological reason [Edward's] normal mental development stopped dead when he reached adolescence."

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