Below is the copy of an unpublished review, slated once to appear in our column Animadversion, (iMAGES on Sunday, Dawn Newspaper).
A Royal Twist in the Tongue
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
For Albert Frederick Arthur George – shortened first as Prince Albert, later King George VI – the pressure isn’t handling the British monarchy; it is the image of a big hulking microphone, and the booming voice of his stutter.
Prince Albert (Collin Firth), or Bertie as he’s called behind closed doors by family, remembers stuttering from an early age. “Nobody is born with a stutter”, explains Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) the unorthodox speech doctor and the other big weight behind The King’s Speech. This is a simple story about a man conquering a private, physical disorder that transformed from an irritating impediment into a perpetual fear.
Imagine this then: 1925 – the age restricted to live radio and the Great Depression. Possibly the next King of England delivering a closing address in a packed Wembley Stadium. As he walks up to the podium, all eyes are on him; his face a mixture of resilient will and fragility. The faux comfort zone created by his aides before he walks up to the microphone literary mean squat when stringing words, let alone a sentence, can be round-trip to hell for him. If that painful-to-watch and mesmerizing scene, by itself isn’t worth an Oscar (at least for Mr. Firth), then I don’t know what is.
Mr. Firth, always a favorite amongst critics, lost his last (and up until then his only) chance, at last year’s Oscar’s for A Single Man (he was bested by Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart); Now, in another career defining, polar opposite portrayal – and also, his most intricately written screen-character – Mr. Firth embodies a gripping emotional anchor to a well-thought out, if not the most shrewdly written, screenplay.
The fresh casualness of the screenplay by David Seidler focuses on an aspect of monarchy rarely simplified for film: the human dilemma as seen from the confines of a locked room. That room is Logue’s small, minimally dressed office, where the patient leaves the tag of royalty at the doorstep. Here, he’s just a man – or better yet, Bertie – and that relates to unconventional treatments, like embedding casual profanity in sentences, loud singing by the windows and rolling on the floor. In one exercise, Albert’s wife and future Queen Mother, Helena Bonham Carter (in one of her infrequent straight-laced performances), sits on his chest as he lies flat on Logue’s floor; this is about as ordinary as a royalty gets in motion pictures, I suppose.
Timed between 1925 and 1939 – leading up to the title of the movie, Albert’s big speech before the Second World War, The King’s Speech is a simplified take on royalty in time of impending war and the Great Depression.
In that simplicity some beefy elements became casualty of logical script pruning. Case in point: Guy Pearce, as David, Albert’s big brother, who becomes a bad babysitter for the monarchy when King George V dies (Michael Gambon, first-rate, especially in his senile scenes).
Mr. Pearce, in a superb supporting performance, creates an imperious, less qualified, romantic who is hopelessly spun around the little finger of a married American socialite, Mrs. Wallis Simpson; a dangerous liaison that has David handing the crown over to Albert (Mrs. Wallis, however later becomes Duchess of Windsor, but that part of history is best served in another movie, preferably not directed by Tom Hooper).
Mr. Hooper, the film’s director, literalizes scenes with text-book inflexibility of a would-be Oscar-winner and way too much negative space (and one-use-too-many of fish-eye lenses). Then again, nobody could go completely wrong with the material.
Mr. Rush – who also envisioned the film – and Mr. Firth are two equal weights of a balanced scale. Their relationship matures, sometimes nearly on the verge of equality and friendship, while remaining in strict class bound confinement; an aspect, explored inch-by-inch by both Mr. Rush and Mr. Firth. Their brotherly romance (bro-mance?) transcends into a powerful human fable, where a twisting tongue becomes a cloak that hides weighty responsibilities.
Released by The Weinstein Co., The King’s Speech is unjustly rated R for profanity, however stammered they may be.
By Farheen Jawaid
The highlight of The King’s Speech is its talent and the becharming script by David Seidler. A script whose sole reason of existence is to supply its impressive cast scenes both heartwarming and inspirational; and on both accounts it succeeds handsomely.
The King’s Speech has Colin Firth as Prince Albert of England who goes through hell each time he is forced by obligation to stand in front of big crowds or a microphone (or as in the powerful opening scene, both) for addresses which were heard almost all over the civilized world at that time.
The thought itself is nerve-racking; however with royalty at stake and a stammer blocking the flow of consistent words, let alone sentences, the result is an influx of disappointment melded with sympathy.
Supported from the sidelines by his sympathetic wife “Elizabeth”, wonderfully played by Helena Boham Carter, after many misadventures with many specialists they come to the company of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unorthodox speech therapist, who insists to be on first name basis with the Prince. Albert then has to ascend the throne, stand tall and talk for (and to) a nation on the brink of war – especially against a diabolical but powerful leader who speaks with the same power he symbolizes.
Mr. Firth, Mr. Rush, Ms. Carter and Michael Gambon (in a small but powerful role of Mr. Firth’s domineering father) give performances that make The King’s Speech one of the best movies of the year. It is about two opposite people. One is emotionally reticent, struggling to get words out; the other can’t get enough of life and words. Both Mr. Rush and Mr. Firth perform their hearts out. Armed with their years of acting experience, they don’t miss one frame of one scene.