THE KING'S SPEECH - Pygmalion In Reverse?
THE KING'S SPEECH (drama)
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Max Callum and James Currie
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenplay: David Seidler
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: Curiously, the story of The King's Speech reminds me of a famous tale about a professor teaching a lowly flower girl to speak properly. That was George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion which was more popularly known as My Fair Lady of 1964.
The King's Speech, however, is Pygmalion in the reverse - about a lowly Aussie teaching a would-be King of the British Empire how to speak properly! My Fair Lady won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Actor and Director - and with all the attention that King's Speech is receiving during this Oscar season, it looks like history may repeat its course.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT: When the movie opens in 1925, we see Prince Albert (Colin Firth) struggling with a stammer that hampers his ability to speak in public. At a time when the radio 'invades' every household, sometimes carrying the King's speech explaining the policies of the government, Albert (or 'Bertie") finds his impediment a dreadful handicap. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) takes it upon herself to find him a speech therapist - a Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush, right) who is known for his unorthodox methods. Bertie 'fires' him upon their first meeting.
However, Logue's importance in Bertie's life surfaces when history conspires to make him King of England at a time when the storm clouds of World War II are looming. Bertie is King George VI - the father of Queen Elizabeth II.
HITS & MISSES: The best part of the movie comes from watching the virtuoso performances of Rush, Firth and Carter who flesh out their roles in a most absorbing and entertaining way. It is particularly fun to watch Logue who, in trying to get Bertie to loosen up, exhorts him to use expletives, including the 'F' word. "Fornication", he responds, whereupon Logue guides him to the four-lettered version. Indeed, the interactions between Bertie and his tutor extends beyond student and teacher. Indeed, the chemistry between Firth and Rush bubbles with humour and wit. Carter has a supporting role and she makes the best of it as the supportive wife (who is later the Queen Mother). Guy Pearce is also outstanding as Edward the heir to the throne.
I am not quite fond of Timothy Spall's rendition of the comical, cigar-chomping Churchill (it is too comic-book), and it would have been swell if scripter David Seidler had developed more of the affair between Mrs Wallis Simpson and Edward. Still, the drama of the Prince who is reluctant to be king is compelling, with juicy dialogues and well detailed period sets and settings.
THE LOWDOWN: It is one movie that deserves to be watched twice.