THE KING'S SPEECH IMPEDIMENT

The King's Speech Impediment
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THE KING'S SPEECH IMPEDIMENT



Written by Georgie Hobbs
10 Monday 10th January 2011
Believe the hype; as the UK Film Council’s swan song, The King’s Speech really sings. Stiff-upper lip and posh people swearing? Tick. Glittering British cast (Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon)? Tick. Man of the moment, Colin Firth? Double tick.
 
Quite out of the blue, director Tom Hooper has created an uncalled for, yet hugely enjoyable prequel to Stephen Frears’ The Queen (2006). The King's Speech stylishly recounts the rise of our Queen’s father, King George VI (Firth), as he prepares to lead a wavering nation into World War II.
 
George – “Bertie” to his wife - was never meant to rule, but is thrust unto the crown when his playboy brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce doing an Errol Flynn thing) abdicates to marry his chic, Nazi-sympathising lover Wallis Simpson. Matters are made worse when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigns, throwing even more pressure on the inexperienced new King, who must conquer his crippling speech impediment if he’s to win the confidence of a country on the brink of war.
 
 
The staggering weight of this task is brought home to us with lightning speed via a gripping opening scene. In front of a sympathetic crowd at the 1925 Empire Exhibition, George faces the microphone. But silence reigns. As the crowd coughs, fidgets and looks on aghast, the changes that must befall a man whose very existence is predicated on his ability to command a listening public seem too great to master.
 
Step in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an eccentric speech therapist-cum-Shakespearean-actor. With new world fearlessness, he alone has the balls to ask “Bertie” to sing and swear like the common man.
 
Rush is endlessly charismatic as the bossy, radical therapist with wild ideas about smoking (“bad for the lungs”) and psychology. Firth is heart-breaking as the bullied prince desperate to find his own voice. Bonham Carter is impressively stoic as George's wife (the Queen Mum as we knew her), who suppresses her own modest desires to support him in his new celebrity.
 
 
On top of a genuinely funny, witty script, the film's beautifully shot. There’s lashings of London fog; a pre-requisite for any good period piece. And clever camera cuts imply the stuttering King’s learning curve without ever resorting to the dreaded montage.
 
One oddity though; constant close-ups of the King’s children. Whenever they're on screen, we get an eyeful of their doe eyes and ruddy pink cheeks. One can only assume this is because the eldest daughter is our current Queen, Queen Elizabeth, so we’re interested in her childhood (true, I suppose, but less so in her cheeks).
 
Ultimately, for a two-hour film about a nine-minute speech, The King's Speech is terrifically pacey and amusing. It brings you right into the action, breathing fresh life into the dusty annals of (not so ancient) history.
 
 
The King's Speech is out now through Momentum Pictures.

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