Saturday, February 12, 2011

The King's Speech (2010): review: 7/10

The Duke of York, brother to the heir to the British throne, has a debilitating stammer: his wife, Elizabeth, finds an speech therapist, a lively and perceptive Australian, to help.

The film charts their friendship through the challenges faced by the Duke most notably when, due to the abdication crisis, he unexpectedly becomes King, and when addressing the nation at the onset of the Second World War.

The film has been extravagantly praised. But, as with The Queen (2006), a large part of my time watching this film was passed in embarassment.

In part whis is a specifically British embarassment of seeing a royal figure depicted intimately.

Before, I had seen George VI to be a dignified figure, assured and calm, having seen him elegantly and formally depicted on coins (British coinage is notable for it's excellent portraiture) and oil paintings. Now, I see human failure, an unhappy, sometimes mean-spirited figure, with limited depth or charm, capable of duty, not much more; bossed about by his shrill wife (played almost satirically by Bonham-Carter). His elder brother is worse, of course-  cruel, selfish and silly.

If we are stripped of our illusions are we reft from our ideals, or do we learn compassion? Do you want to feel compassion for kings?

The film is episodical shot, lacking a certain fluency. The scenes of London are interesting, with nicely decorated art deco sets, and there are enjoyable contrasts between the family life of the Australian therapist and that of the Royals.

But the film is less interesting than it might be. It begins to ask questions about the value of duty, of respect for convention and tradition, and how an indvidual should relate to these, but fails to explore them with thoroughness. This is mainly because the hero is lacking in the depth and intelligence required to be a vehicle for such explorations (as the summary description of the British royal family would imply: "German and not too bright").

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