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The King's Speech

7 Golden Globe Award Nominations, 4 SAG Award Nominations

If this is to be the UK Film Council's swan song it's gone out on a high note, or rather a regal flourish of trumpets. Tom Hooper's richly enjoyable and handsomely produced movie about George VI's struggle to cure his stammer is a massively confident crowd-pleaser. What looks at first like an conventional Brit period drama about royals is actually a witty and elegant new perspective on the abdication crisis and on the dysfunctional quiver at the heart of the Windsors and of prewar Britain. It suggests there was a time when a member of the royal household experimented with psychoanalysis – disguised as speech therapy. Colin Firth gives a warm and sympathetic performance as Bertie, the Duke Of York, an introverted and uncomfortable stammerer, bullied by his father George V, played by Michael Gambon, and overshadowed by his charismatic playboy older brother, David, a role dispatched with some style by Guy Pearce, incidentally putting to rest the overpowering memory of Edward Fox in the part. Helena Bonham Carter is Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, his robustly supportive wife who, with her intuitive sense of when and how to dispense with her own reverence for protocol, engages a new Australian speech therapist to help her despairing husband. This is the eccentric and undeferential Leonard Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. Logue is a man who must cure his own demons – a sense of failure over never having made it as a professional actor – and who is everywhere patronised as a colonial. The movie is a clever anti-Pygmalion. Where Henry Higgins had to get Eliza Doolittle to smarten up and talk proper, Logue finds his pupil has gone too far in the other direction: Bertie is too constrained, too clenched, too formal and too miserable. To untie his tongue he has to relax, but also to talk about what makes him unhappy, as he has never done with anyone in his life before. David, effortlessly debonair and stubbornly set on a marriage to Mrs Simpson, is going to thrust upon Bertie's shoulders the awful burden of kingship, which, in the new era of radio, depends on public speaking as never before. When Logue's methods get results, Bertie is delighted, and Logue becomes a sensational new royal favourite whose intimacy with the duke astonishes and infuriates the palace establishment, particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury, played by Derek Jacobi (himself a legendary screen stammerer in I, Claudius). Hooper's film subtly suggests that Bertie has defiantly learned one thing from his ne'er-do-well brother: Logue is to be his very own Mrs Simpson, a commoner who has to be tolerated by the royals. Of course, Logue gets it wrong. He presumes too much.Bertie's royal arrogance and coldness are not so easily unlearned and Logue is spurned: a morganatic bromantic lovers' tiff. There are many incidental pleasures in David Seidler's screenplay. On being thanked for some small service, Logue asks: "What are friends for?" "I wouldn't know," snaps the duke. After watching the newsreel of the coronation, the new royal family finds itself mesmerised by the sight of Hitler at Nuremberg. "What's he saying?" asks one of his daughters. "I don't know, but he seems to be saying it rather well," says the new king thoughtfully. (As it happens, the movie skates tactfully over Queen Elizabeth's enthusiasm for appeasement, passing more or less straight from the abdication to the outbreak of war.) There is strong support from Anthony Andrews as Baldwin and a jowl-wobbling portrayal of Churchill from Timothy Spall. Fans of TV's Outnumbered will be very pleased to see nine-year-old Ramona Marquez cast as Princess Margaret, although I wonder if she shouldn't really have been Elizabeth. This was the real popular hit at the London film festival. -Peter Bradshaw, Guardian (UK) Official Trailer
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Directed by: 
Tom Hooper
Running Time: 
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon
Screenplay by: 
David Seidler

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