Review: The King's Speech (2010)
Fluency shaping, or stuttering modification therapy? You decide
I've struggled with G.A.D. (generalized anxiety disorder) for years. I've been on medications on and off and suffered through panic attacks and all the rest and read a lot of books on the subject of fear, rational and irrational. One of the most surprising things I've discovered is how many people are truly terrified by the thought of public speaking. In a list of most common fears, public speaking will usually beat sickness, spiders, or even death. I personally have never had a fear of public speaking, as quiet as I am, if I need to talk to a big group of people I will, no big deal. King George VI was not like me. He had a fear of public speaking so serious that he would stutter and choke when even speaking to a single person. Even at times with his own family. And he was made King at a time when radio and mass media were newly invented means of communication. Shitty timing for him. And so forms the plot of The King's Speech.
Almost every person who I've told the plot of The King's Speech to has uniformly balked at it. And I guess I can't blame them, on the surface it sounds like a very boring movie. A King has a stutter and needs to see a quirky specialist to correct it who he initially dislikes but eventually trusts and grows closer to than anyone outside his immediate family. Then came the reviews. Right out of the gate every major film critic praised the film and in many cases claimed the best picture of the year Oscar race was over...
If The King's Speech wins the Oscar for best picture in March, I won't be disappointed. It wasn't my favourite film of 2010, but you'd be surprised how entertaining, funny, touching, even exciting a film about a speech impediment can be (which also happens to feature the funniest and most creative use of the f word since Planes, Trains and Automobiles) when made by a group of people as talented as these.
Tom Hooper is no stranger to taking boring concepts and making them entertaining and accessible. The miniseries John Adams could have been a historic snore fest if he hadn't found a way to tell the story in a compelling way. And last year's The Damned United would have been just another forgettable underdog sports flick if he hadn't given it the grit and visual excitement it needed to be more.
Two Oscar givens this year are Geoffrey Rush, playing the speech therapist to pitch perfection and the right amount of charismatic charm and Colin Firth, an actor of many great performances and no poor ones, giving the performance he couldn't hope to top if these were Genesis times and he lived and acted till the age of 6- or 700. He plays King George VI, or 'Bertie' as he's known to family (and the therapist) with such a believable and fantastic performance that if he doesn't win best actor at the Oscars this year, I'll eat my shoe. No I won't. But I will be surprised.
Helena Bonham Carter is great as the Queen Mum (in her younger years of course), as King George's very supportive and caring wife and shows that she has what it takes to play straight dramatic roles and doesn't always need to play the film's freakshow to be memorable.
The King's Speech is just simply what happens when all the elements at the disposal of the filmmakers are handled with great talent and the finished product is a high quality film with staying power that, regardless of what awards it wins or is nominated for, will surely be seen in decades to come (provided those damn Mayans were f-ing with us about that whole 2012 apocalypse thing) as a classic of the new millennium.