Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The King Will Leave You Speechless

On Friday after work, I was in the mood to go see a movie at the theater but was torn between two that I wanted to see: Sofia Coppola's look at the lonely life of a movie star living at the Chateau Marmont (Somewhere) or a film about the last King of England, who had a major speech impediment (The King's Speech). My heart was with Somewhere, but several people I respect have raved raved RAVED about The King's Speech that it actually swayed me into seeing this film. I can always watch Somewhere this coming Friday after work.

I know very little about the British Royal family. I'm not really into the monarchy (blame my deeply embedded American roots...supposedly, one of my ancestors is Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland--one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence against King George III). The only members of the Royal family that I liked were Lady Diana Spencer the Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother, but both have passed on. In 2006, the excellent film The Queen made me look at Queen Elizabeth II in a better light. Now comes a film about her father, Prince Albert, who takes the name George VI when he assumed the title and responsibility of King after his wreckless older brother Edward was forced to abdicate the throne for marrying a twice divorced American commoner.

When I heard the premise of the movie, I was baffled that someone would see filmworthy potential in such a topic (Prince Albert has a stuttering problem, which is no good for a modern day monarch in an era where world war looks inevitable). The story of his brother falling for an American divorcee seemed far more film-worthy. A part of me wonders if this film is prepping us for King William, since Prince Charles (next in line to the throne) has married the unpopular divorcee Camilla Parker Bowles, who supposedly has the title: "Princess Consort." I personally think the monarchy should be abolished after Queen Elizabeth II passes on, but the Brits love their traditions and hopefully they'll have the good sense to bypass Prince Charles and make William the King.

The King's Speech has a high calibre cast: Colin Firth as the stuttering prince, Helena Bonham Carter as his devoted and tenacious wife Elizabeth, Geoffrey Rush as the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, and Guy Pearce as the dashing elder Prince Edward (who goes by David). There is no other candidate worthy of the Best Actor Oscar this year as much as Colin Firth. He deserves this award, hands down.

What I loved about this film is that Albert and Elizabeth approach his problem as a purely mechanical issue. His mouth isn't working as it should and they seek out the best speech therapists to help him correct his problem. When a mouth full of marbles doesn't work, Elizabeth seeks out an unconventional speech therapist that someone had recommended. This is where Lionel Logue comes in. He claims that stammering / stuttering is a psychological disorder rooted somewhere in childhood. He tries to get the prince to open up about his past, but that's considered improper according to the decorum of royal / commoner relations. This poses a big problem in their working relationship. How does the speech therapist get the Prince to dig deep within his past to find out where the speech impediment originated?

Well...go see the movie if you want to find out how! That's all I'm writing about the movie. What really captivated me the most is that I'm in full agreement that many of the afflictions that we have are rooted within our psyche. Most people don't want to delve deep within to find the source of whatever phobias they have. They'd rather keep the phobia rather than do the inner work to find out why they have the fear. When we learn more of the Prince's past, it is a bit heartbreaking.

While there might be many people who dream about being royalty (all those little girls with their "princess fantasies"), this film shows just how lonely life for a royal family member truly is. They may have prestige, wealth, and the ability to attract attention whenever they want or even when they don't, but they don't have freedom. They are bound by traditions, decorum, formalities, and rules. Who in their right minds wants that?!? This movie makes me want to learn more about Queen Elizabeth II's parents, especially since her father is considered to be a great inspiration for the resistence movement during the Second World War with his powerful speeches.

Because I think Colin Firth's performance as Prince Albert / King George VI is just awesomely dynamic, I may have to amend my Best of 2010 list once again by replacing Sean Penn's portrayal as Joseph Wilson with Colin Firth. It truly is one of the most remarkable performances I've ever seen on film. If Firth does not win Best Actor this year, I think we should riot. It's that good, members of the Academy! So vote accordingly or else Sarah Palin will put you in her crosshairs!

Seriously, if you want to see a good biopic about a man with a very human problem despite his privileged background and how he tries to overcome this, this is the one to watch. I'm also hoping that the film will be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and if The Social Network is also nominated, I hope that the members of the Academy will be smarter than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which named the Facebook movie over The King's Speech as their choice for Best Dramatic Motion Picture for 2010. The King's Speech is Oscar-calibre all the way.


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

everywhere I look, this movie is getting great reviews! Now it's on my list.

Julie said...

If Camilla is a divorcee, then Charles won't/can't be King, because the king can't marry a previously divorced woman...unless there's some technicality about it being ok if he marries her while still Prince and not yet King.
In that case, I hope Kate is ready to be Queen!