Film Review: The King’s Speech

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 28th December 2010.

According to reports, the most “Oscar worthy” film of the Boxing Day releases is The King’s Speech. Focusing on King George VI’s struggles with a stutter and his interactions with Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, the performances of lead actors Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are already being touted for Oscar nominations. In order to properly review the film, I thought it was important to appraise The King’s Speech from a cinematic and therapeutic perspective so I enlisted Sydney speech therapist Lyndal Sheepway to join me for an expensive but comfortable Gold Class Boxing Day screening.

The Story

Peter says: The triumph over adversity storyline is nothing new, although this is a little known true story. Apparently when approached by the filmmakers, The Queen Mother gave permission for the dramatisation but only after she was dead, so traumatic was the actual event. To me, the stakes were simply not high enough. A rich, powerful monarch with a speech impediment is not quite My Left Foot or Rain Man is it?

Lyndal says: I was reasonably unfamiliar with the storyline before seeing the movie but thought that anything involving a speech therapist was surely going to be interesting! Unfortunately it didn’t really pack a punch for me. Like Peter, I didn’t think the stakes were high enough, and the final triumph wasn’t all that triumphant.

The Performances

Peter says: The disability card has certainly worked well Oscar-wise for Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man), Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) and Geoffrey Rush (Shine) but a stutter is completely treatable. If Mr Darcy deserves an Oscar, it should be for his sublime performance in last year’s A Simple Man. Aussie Geoffrey Rush plays, well, an Aussie Geoffrey Rush. After stints at Hogwarts and Wonderland, Helena Bonham Carter returns to her strengths, playing a stoic English upper class lady. Guy Pearce is surprising effective in the small but important role of King Edward VIII who abdicates the throne for American socialite Wallis Simpson.

Lyndal says: I really wasn’t convinced by Colin Firth’s stutter. A little boy who plays one of Geoffrey Rush’s clients does a more convincing job. Geoffrey Rush plays the same character he often does, but called this one a speech therapist. Helena Bonham Carter definitely shows her versatility playing the wife of a king, while in the cinema next door she’s a Death Eater fighting Harry Potter. The best Australian accent in the film comes from an artificially aged Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennett to Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy) who plays Geoffrey Rush’s wife. Also great to see Guy Pearce back on the screen, even if only for a short time.

The Speech Therapy

Peter says: I’m not a speech therapist but I’m pretty sure jumping up and down whilst humming and rolling around on the floor are not part of today’s speech therapy techniques. The King’s Speech and Drama Coach is more like it.

Lyndal says: Peter’s right. Some of the techniques used in the film are rather dubious. We now know for sure that stuttering is not caused by anxiety or childhood experiences. Therapy during the days of King George VI was based on this incorrect assumption. The techniques are essentially ineffective – The King’s stuttering doesn’t improve all that much, and he insists that his therapist should be with him all the time. These days we help people so that they don’t need us around all the time. Speech therapy has definitely come a long way since World War II. And most of us are more attractive that Geoffrey Rush!

Overall

Peter says: I’m sure Mrs Rush would disagree with you. This film is all a little too low key for me. Just like The Queen, this would make a riveting TV movie, but besides the scenes in Ely Cathedral (standing in for Westminster Abbey), the picture is simply not cinematic enough to deserve the big screen. This film is definitely not in the same league as The Hurt Locker or even Slumdog Millionaire. I’m sure it will be nominated as Best Picture but it shouldn’t win. That honour should be reserved for Yogi Bear 3D.

Lyndal says: Can I review Yogi Bear with you too, Peter? Seeing The King’s Speech was a good way to spend an afternoon, but it would be just as enjoyable on DVD. For me, it lacked a hook. The improvement in the stuttering wasn’t strong enough, the bond between the king and his speech therapist wasn’t strong or convincing enough, and the country’s fear about the impending war wasn’t communicated through the film at all. It doesn’t get my vote for an Oscar.

Peter says: So you have voting rights? Go Yogi. Thanks for joining me. Ha-ha-happy new year!

Lyndal says: Thank you for the Gold Class experience! And the sundae!

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. A well crafted piece of entertainment built around a couple of flashy but engaging performances from Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Good review, check out mine when you can!


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