Friday, February 11, 2011

Opening Scenes: ‘The King’s Speech’

By Chip Schrader
Movie Reviewer
“The King’s Speech” opens with an old style microphone shot from multiple angles in the middle of an empty studio. An unknown man gargles and spits into a bucket, sprays a liquid into his mouth, and recites a humorous array of vocal exercises. Finally, he sits at the chair and measures the distance from his face to the microphone with his hands, and introduces the Duke of York to his radio audience. As the Duke of York steps up to speak, his stammer causes a jam in his speech to the point he is mute. The crowd at Wembley Stadium is visibly uncomfortable.
Colin Firth brings the low-key dignity of the man who would become King. From his stammer to his hot temper, Firth seems to have mastered the complexities of a man who had to be badgered by his therapist into using profanity. The scene where Firth is pacing around the Doctor’s office repeating the same cuss word with increasing speed and ferocity is enough of a comic break to endear viewers to this otherwise reserved and cool character.
Geoffrey Rush plays the peppy therapist, Lionel, who labors to enunciate his lines at a tryout for a lead role in a play. Rush’s portrayal of Lionel is assertive, confident, and subdued as he manages a great deal of laughs from the careful viewer along with some lively scenes where Lionel and the King verbally spar. Rounding out the talented, and Screen Actors’ Guild Award winning ensemble, was Helena Bonham Carter as the Duke’s wife, a no-nonsense and devoted wife to the Duke and mother of the future Queen (Elizabeth).
The acting and writing of “The King’s Speech” is superb. It is a dignified drama that does not plummet to the level of tugging at emotions, or even plea any sympathy from its audience. While the viewer is engaged with each character and feels their frustrations and struggles, never once are they in agony over the emotional turmoil of the character. “The King’s Speech” is high drama with the signature English “stiff upper lip” in place of cheap sentimentality; all the while the viewers sit at the edge of their seats to see the King succeed.
The setting is the gloomy and foggy English landscape, the close-up shots are off-center to photograph the palatial old English rooms, and the predominant colors circle around gray and wood tones. Each frame is hypnotically shot as the acting does plenty to captivate the scene.
“The King’s Speech” is rightfully at the center of the Oscar contest, and the actors are serious contenders. Carter’s recognition for this role is deserved, but Firth and Rush are the standout nominees for this film. The writing and cinematography are excellent, although “True Grit” might have the edge for being the most cinematic. Whether they win all or nothing, “The King’s Speech” is among the handful of must-see films, and stands at the top of even that list. 5 out of 5.
Photo caption: (Courtesy movie poster of “The King’s Speech”)