By now, I imagine you might be getting just a little bit sick of hearing about the Royal Wedding. Well get fucking used to it because between now and Kate’s Big Day it’s going to be literally everywhere. If she wants a bit of background on the family she’s marrying into, the future Mrs Windsor might find The King’s Speech an interesting watch. It tells the story of her soon to be great grandfather-in-law George VI who, it turns out, was afflicted with a terrible speech impediment that made talking in front of even small groups of people practically impossible. Although, as Kate is about to find out, that’s a fairly minor personality defect compared to the various adulterers, Nazi impersonators and Diana-killers that were to succeed him.
The film stars Colin Firth as the stammering king and Geoffrey Rush who plays Lionel Logue, the unorthodox Australian speech therapist he turns to for help. Logue’s abrupt, non-deferential attitude, in particular his insistence that the two men treat each other as equals and only use their first names, is shocking for the royal who has only ever had contact with grovelling servants and courtiers. However, the controversial approach eventually pays off and Lionel becomes ‘Bertie’s’ closest friend and confidant.
At first glance, the film seems to have quite a lot in common with Nicholas Hytner’s 1994 royal drama, The Madness of King George. Both films feature an afflicted British monarch (called George) who turns to a straight-talking, non-deferential commoner for help and, despite initial tensions, develops a grudging respect and affection for him. It’s worth noting however that; from total batshit insanity to a mere case of stuttering; the ailments affecting the Royals seem to be getting easier. Expect to see a film out in a few years time about Prince Harry going to the chiropodist.
Director Tom Hooper (who previously directed The Damned United and, thrillingly, several episodes of Byker Grove!) has created a visually stunning period drama filled with lots of lovely-looking old palaces and costumes. It’s the kind of film you could go and see with your mum (I wouldn’t recommend Season of the Witch, to be honest..) There is, admittedly, a bit where Bertie says ‘fuck’ a few times, but it’s done in such a winsomely posh voice that I don’t think she’ll mind too much. The affectionately satirical depiction of plummy British aristocrats is probably my favourite thing about the film and there is some absolutely spectacular poshness on show - the film is essentially a Bromance for Posho’s. Colin Firth, already the Industry’s go-to guy for posh, surpasses himself here - conjuring up the most wonderful upper-class accent I have ever heard... “The pingweens are in the Serth Pearl”
The King’s Speech is currently riding high at the top of everybody’s Oscar predictions list and I’m sure it will go on to sweep the board. This is actually my only problem with the film; it kind of feels a bit cynical - like that was the plan from the start. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie so unashamedly purpose-built for the Academy Awards. It’s got basically everything: Based on a true story? Check. Royalty? Check. Some manner of disability? Check. There’s even a couple of Nazis thrown in for good measure.
It isn’t as though no one else is doing it; you see plenty of Oscar bait films out this time of year that have been tarted up for the awards juries. But this is taking it to the next level. This film is essentially smothering itself in metaphorical fake tan, vajazzling its vajayjay and heading out to Faces nightclub in Illford with the aim of sucking off a metaphorical John Terry. (Have I pushed that analogy a little far?)
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