The King’s Speech (2010) is a nice, neat little story that I’ve always enjoyed coming back to over the years. There’s not a whole lot to it … The plot entirely centers around Bertie, Duke of York (soon to become George VI), and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. The film doesn’t spend a lot of time deviating into the colossal dramas of the lives of the royal family in the run up to the Second World War, which is actually its biggest strength. The tensions between Bertie and his elder brother David (aka Edward VIII) as David pursues twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, could fill volumes of miniseries, as could the encroaching drum of war with Germany breathing down Bertie’s neck, but we have loads of films and miniseries dealing with those subjects.
Instead, what we get with this film is a tidy story of something seemingly minor that ends up becoming a problem of national importance. The future king (played by Colin Firth) has a stutter, you see, and it just so happens that by the time Bertie becomes the heir to the throne, and then king, it coincides with the rise of radio, film, and television. He can’t just skirt the issue with his voice expected to be broadcast into every home throughout the British Empire.
Enter Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist who is the last hope after a long line of unsuccessful doctors and specialists who have tried to “cure” Bertie of his stammer. Lionel’s unconventional methods are at odds with Bertie’s stiff persona as a royal prince, but gradually the two men manage to forge a working relationship, and soon, a friendship.
I’m not really concerned with how historically accurate the actual plot is, as these sorts of films invariably take shortcuts in the historical narrative for pacing’s sake, but the basics seem to hold up. Logue was indeed an Australian speech therapist who started working with Bertie in the 1920s and continued to work with him through the 1940s. The film is packed with fun little cameos from various BBC Pride and Prejudice co-stars, such as Jennifer Ehle as Logue’s wife, and David Bamber as a snippy theater director. Guy Pearce as Edward VIII and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Michael Gambon as George V round out the nicely packed cast. The costumes, designed by Jenny Beavan, are nicely composed and mainly mid-1930s when the bulk of the action is set.
What did you think about The King’s Speech? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
I enjoyed The King’s Speech. As you said, the simplicity of the story is its strength. After over a decade (two?) of super hero movies from Marvel, I’m weary of “saving the whole world” as a plot and appreciate smaller character dramas more. The problem of a stutter seems small, but the drama is big!
We watch this film often to enjoy the great performances, clever dialogue, and spot on costumes. I am in love with the interior furnishings and wallpaper in the Louge’s home too.
Speaking of “interior furnishings and wallpaper”:
One of the strangest trivia points about this film is that the room in 33 Portland Place with the distinctive dilapidated wall texture, seen in the first few framecaps above with Firth and Rush, was previously used in a gay porn video shot around the same time.
Not only that, but according to this article on CinemaBlend, comparison with the earlier porn shoot shows that Oscar-nominated production designer Eve Stewart maybe didn’t do quite as much with the place as she alleged she did in interviews:
(There’s no NSFW content at the link, but there are two “Speedo-exposure level” shots of shirtless and jockstrap-clad porn models posed separately on the same set compared to a shot from the film.)
I thought it was well done all around. Loved the future king, hated the playboy duke. Piss poor protoplasm.
That’s quite the character study when comparing the wardrobes of Wallis Simpson (Eve Best) and Elizabeth Windsor (Helena Bonham Carter).
Whatever one thinks of upper-class British costume drama as a genre, TKS is a wee gem. The script, direction, acting and production values all hang together, and George VI gets to preview his valiant side. (Have always had a mild crush on GVI–very cute in his withdrawn Brit fashion.)
I quite enjoyed the film, as did the rest of my family. I agree about liking smaller dramas as well. I love an epic as much as the next person, but there’s something really nice about these kind of character portraits/family stories. (This is probably why I liked Belfast quite a bit; I read some reviews that think it’s enjoyable but doesn’t get into the situation enough, but for me it’s ok to take a limited view, particularly if it’s not pretending it’s some sort of all encompassing tale.) Always a treat to see Firth and Ehle, even if not enough of the latter in this one. :-)
I love this movie. Saw it in the theater with 4 other people in the whole theater, then bought a copy. Have shown it to many people who also liked it. This is my kind of Oscar movie. Small, intimate story, excellent acting, costume drama, good story. And I love seeing Helena play a not-lunatic once in awhile.
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I still get a frisson of a thrill when I see the scene when Mrs. Logue comes home and stumbles on the Mutha Effin’ Queen of England in her dining room, and HBC imbues Elizabeth with such warmth and charm and class that it may have imbued my perception of the actual Queen Mum with more positive attributes than she had.
Also, Eve Best slays in her brief scene as Wallis Simpson, but then again, she slays in everything.
This movie was so well done. That said, I just couldn’t get into Guy Pearce as David nor the actress who played Wallis Simpson. I agree that the tight storyline is a very strong aspect of this film as opposed to the done-to-death other elements surrounding this story.
I didn’t realize it was Jennifer Ehle until you pointed it out. I’m more familiar with her as a horror actress. She must sink into frock flick roles quite well.
My daughter is in college studying to be a speech pathologist. Think we’ll watch this one when she’s home for Christmas.
Loved this film. HBC and CF are terrific and I adore the costumes. One of my favourite scenes is when The Queen Mum pays a visit to Logue to get him to help Bertie. His total obtuseness of who she is or firm resolve not to treat both her and Bertie any different from his regular patients is a screen. Almost as funny as Mrs Logue stumbling on The Queen Mum scene. And I am not a fan of David or Wallis.
Wonderful movie. I swear I have seen Mrs. Logue’s sweater in another FF post recently.
I found it. Marple: The Body in the Library.