TMG Scale 10.0
Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Carter
In the old days they would yell, “hold the presses.” TMG can’t do that with a radio broadcast. But if I could, I would amend my New Years Day broadcast of the Worst and Best of 2010. This film certainly deserves to be in the top five and we will hear about it generously on Oscar night.
I went into this film with very low expectations. I actually wanted to avoid it. Many of the old school print critics had already gushed over it—usually sure sign I will be non plussed. English Kings and Queens, old drafty buildings, fog and snobby English elitists. I can live most days just bloody fine without it. But this film was an amazing surprise at all levels. It starts a bit too slow but then the acting, the story and the pure triumph of the human spirit overtakes you. It is a great personal story of one man’s triumph over adversity. You forget you are watching and being endeared by a rich aristocrat in England whose mere existence in modern times makes me mostly want to hurl. But the setting is in 1925-1939 period.
King George V dies and leaves his elder son Edward to be king. But King Edward VIII abdicates less than a year later due to his scandal involving a twice divorced American woman and his desire to marry her. (British Royalty can do almost anything behind close doors but their public persona must at least claim to be squeaky clean. Obviously, things have changed in more recent years.) Younger son Albert (Colin Firth) takes over as King Edward VI. The problem is “Bertie” as he was known to family, had a bad stammering speech problem since childhood. The movie follows his journey from embarrassed public “stammerer” to a bold speaking king thanks to an unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).
I forgot to care about Prince, then King Edward VI, being British Royalty. The screenwriters and directors had to know this was a significant empathy challenge so Lionel brings him down to commoner level, even referring to him as “Bertie.” This would be about the equivalent today to referring to his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II as “Little Lilibet.” The technique worked because it made King Edward VI just a regular man trying to overcome a childhood handicap.
This movie was historically accurate (as far as I know) but embelished with great Hollywood grandeur and writing. It is always wonderful to be impressed when you least expect to be. It’s R rating is unfortunate and only because Edward is coached to swear profusely to at times to help cure the stammer. Its use was appropriate to the film though and not gratuitous.
I would recommend this film to most anyone. It is not likely a great friday night date choice, but most great films are not. See this one a Sunday afternoon to truly savor it. Save your Friday night for the next Will Ferrel, Zach Galifianakis or Adam Sandler fluff piece.