Queen Elizabeth: My husband's work involves a great deal of public speaking.
Lionel Logue: Then he should change jobs.
What is he, an indentured servant?
Something like that.
1925. King George VI is delivering, or trying to deliver, a speech to a large crowd, but his crippling stutter renders him unable to proceed beyond a few words. Ashamed of his handicap, the king tries every method of vocal coaching, but to no avail—until he meets Lionel Logue, an unconventional voice coach who promises success. And
I had the privilege of seeing this film last week and I was incredibly impressed and surprised. Admittedly, the plot sounds rather boring on paper, and generally I dislike films about British monarchy, but the film transcended all expectations. The characters were so rich, the dialogue so crisp, the music so delightful, the conflict so relatable, and the resolution so satisfying, the film was hard not to love. Without hesitation, I would name this film one of the best of 2010 and deserving of all the critical acclaim and accolades it has received—including an impressive best picture win at Saturday night’s Producer’s Guild of America Awards.
The king with the huge problem is marvelously portrayed by Colin Firth, who quickly disappears into his character. The king's handicap is so real that, at times, the movie is difficult to watch. The supportive Queen who only seeks to see her husband succeed is given little screen time, but actress Helena Bonham Carter shines in those moments. However, the real show-stealer is Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), the vocal coach with a questionable past but an unquenchable determination to see the king succeed.
As the movie progresses, each of these characters grows and evolves, revealing fears, motivations, and drives, which, despite the long run time, always kept me interested. Though I knew how the movie was going to end, I felt a certain attachment to the characters and thoroughly hoped they would succeed. The conclusion was satisfying, hopeful and, like a good film always does, left me wanting more.
Generally well-written, the film relies heavily on dialogue and never uses action or narration to further the plot. The best scenes of the film involve interactions between Lionel and King George. George often questions Lionel’s methods and, on more than one occasion, they butt heads, resulting in verbal sparring matches which never lose believability or realism. In one more memorable scene which brilliantly portrays the relationship between the two characters, Lionel sits in the throne, much to the displeasure of King George. Ignoring the latter’s demands that he move, Lionel prods the king until the following lines are uttered:
King George VI: L-listen to me... listen to me!
Lionel Logue: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
Because I have a voice!
...Yes, you do.
There is no need for blunt explanations or narration as the writers rely solely on characterization, nuance and depth to convey the film’s messages of respect, friendship, trust, and determination.
It amazes me that reviewers tend to overlook the score of the film since I find that a good score can make a film great, while a bad score can ruin a film. Alexandre Desplat’s composition only serves to enhance an otherwise excellent film. His subtle yet peppy piano-driven orchestrations provide a perfect backdrop to each scene engaging the viewer who will, undoubtedly, fall in love with each scene. This is a score that can be enjoyed outside of the film and should not be missed.
The cinematography lacked the sweeping shots of foggy England, the colorful array of royal palaces, and the interesting angles which would have added to the visual enjoyment of the film. To me, the film looked like a made-for-TV special as seen on PBS or BBC. The colors were drab, the choice of angles generally uninspired, and the shots tended to remove the viewer from the scene as if watching a stage play instead of bringing the viewer into the scene creating involvement with the characters. However, it was not enough to distract from the story and only served to annoy the visual perfectionist in me.
Also unfortunate, as I found out after the fact, is that Hollywood felt it necessary to intervene and change the story to make the conclusion more rousing and the situations more dramatic. Treat the historicity of the film with caution and take some time to learn the true story of King George VI, a truly inspirational and remarkable story indeed.
Finally, the film is rated R for “Some Language” which occurs in two scenes. As history chronicles, King George did not suffer from his impediment in one situation: when he cursed. Thus, in an attempt to cure him, Lionel encourages fits of cursing. While the profanity count is higher than I would prefer, the setting and context of the swearing was not nearly as offensive as in outbursts of anger, or casual conversation. However, the swearing is partially played for laughs and caution should be exercised in determining appropriateness for younger audiences.
This little gem of a film should not be overlooked. Its flaws are far outweighed by its merits and almost every aspect of the film brings joy and delight. The comedy, the dialogue, the character development, the music and the conclusion all make this film a must-see. Watch with a history book nearby, but watch indeed.