Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Royal Triumph

Get ready for a grudge match at the Oscars! Last year, Jeff Bridges snuck in and stole the naked gold guy statue from the deserving Colin Firth for Tom Ford’s A Single Man, and this year, Firth is poised to steal the award back for his stammering royal in The King’s Speech over Bridges’ amazing work in True Grit.

With all the talk of Prince William marrying a commoner the Royal Family actually likes, The King’s Speech marvelously takes you back in time to when the Brits thought the world would end when King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) took up with an American divorcée. Yes, he and Wallis Simpson were reportedly Nazi sympathizers, but it was the divorcée part that really angered the Royals. When Eddie gave up the crown for love, it fell upon his brother “Bertie” (Firth) to take command of the Realm, despite having a debilitating stammer. Tom Hooper’s richly entertaining film takes you backstage at Buckingham Palace right as World War II was about to take over.


After a disastrous speech at a packed stadium, Albert, the future King George VI (Queen Elizabeth’s father) fears that his stutter and lack of confidence will never make him worthy of the crown. Taking the initiative for the man she loves, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks out a speech therapist on a clearly shabby part of the famed Harley Street. Australian Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush, giving a marvelous supporting performance) is brash and unwilling to bow to all of the royal conventions when dealing with “Bertie”, so their relationship is a rocky one at first.

The King’s Speech becomes a rousing tale of friendship between two men of different stations, and the unconditional love of the Queen Mother for her emotionally battered husband. All three leads are fantastic, and LGBT audiences will feel special kinship with Firth’s character. The way his brother bullies him for being weak will strike a chord in anyone who faced similar torture growing up. The King’s Speech makes learning history fun.

UPDATE: The King's Speech is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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