Reviews since 1993: A-E F-N O-Z Posters Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do Search the Site
Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
IN SHORT: Best of the Year . . . as long as you're British. [Rated R for some language. 118 minutes]
Before we even saw The King's Speech, other down-in-the-trenches critics like us were talking about the film as being one of the best of the year. It is, without doubts, a very well made and performed film. But for reasons we're sure you'll divine by the time we finish describing the nuts and bolts, it isn't a film that will dominate American box offices. [But it should still garner a couple of award nominations as a jolly well done kind of nod . . .
And the 'R' is due to one scene with a lot of 4-letter swearing. The kind most kids now seem to know by age 12. OTT (meaning the f-word rolls off you like rain) the rating is way off base. Onwards . . .
Bertie Johnston (Colin Firth) has had a terrible stammer ever since his childhood. His family and his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) -- all publicfigures, as is Bertie -- know all about it. So Bertie manages to stay out of the public eye as best as he can for most of his life. Then his father (Michael Gambon) dies and his elder brother (Guy Pearce) abandons the family business to sleep with a slutty foreigner, leaving it to Bertie. Running the company means being making public appearances and speeches and, well, Bertie's stammer is really, really, really bad. Bad enough that the entire company could fall to ruin. So it falls to a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), found in the phone book, to help correct the stammer and save the Western world . . .
Wait ... Save the World? What has Cranky left out of this story?
Maybe that the setting is post World War One.
Maybe that Bertie's "company" used to, pretty much, run most of the Western World.
Maybe that the slutty foreigner is the historically famous "Woman I Love" . . . the most famous sound bite on the British side of the Pond, made infamous by time and history. Maybe "leaving the company" means the famous abdication of royal duties of the last century. One so famous that even Americans know it from history classes in school.
OK, have you figured out which King the film's title is talking about now? Historically, Americans should at least be able to nail it as "that King during World War II . . . Queen Elizabeth's dad." That's simple, modern history of the kind that used to covered by high school. "Bertie" in this case is Albert (the principle part of a really long run of proper names that Brit royalty are saddled with); dad is King George V and the horny couple in question are Prince Edward and Mrs. Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). If nothing else, we came out of our viewing of The King's Speech knowing more about the house-breakin' Mrs. Simpson than we ever learned in school.
But The King's Speech isn't really about royalty or the coming war. In fact, it is established that Bertie's frustration that accompany his stammer have brought more humiliation to his life than he would like to endure. As a "minor" royal, he could be limited to events requiring little speech. But with the development of what the British called "the wireless" -- we call it "radio" -- the citizenry wanted to hear their masters. So the King went on the radio. Eventually, his successor would have to as well.
So Bertie's wife looked in the Brit equivalent of the yellow pages for a speech therapist. Just in case . . .
There's something awkwardly funny about that last sentence , even as the need for a profession such as speech "therapist" is subtly detailed in the script. There is much that is subtle about David Seidler's screenplay, which leaves more room for the principle characters to play in. So, play they do.
The King's Speech is impeccably acted with special empasis on the professional and personal relationship that develops between the soon to be king and his Commoner instructor. The film is perfectly constructed. When all is said and done, The King's Speech will be a monster hit in the UK and, as the various human components of the cast and crew do the end of year dosie-do with the various critics and academies for individual shots at the golden podium we can say this: The King's Speech should deliver a lot of possibilities to the actors and principal crew and it should darn well sweep the British equivalent of Oscar . . .
anyone sense a "b" word coming . . .
But we're American. Sorry to the filmmakers, the emotional components that we individually bring into the theater (or living room) screening The King's Speech do not add the emotional oomph that would drive the film over the top. Maybe it's just yours Cranky but we write the reviews and we are American. We're also fair. That being written,
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The King's Speech, he would have paid . . .
The King's Speech rings all the bells, technically.This is exactly what tends to win a Best Picture statue down the line. We don't live in a film school class. Culturally and emotionally, The King's Speech doesn't manage to deliver enough to cross the divide and make Americans care.
We grade more severely at Oscar time. The King's Speech will do well come the end of year lists, you can count on that.
The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995 - 2017 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, ™ their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.