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!

The Oscars: Who will win and who should win?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd March 2010.

The 82nd Academy Awards will be presented in the US on Sunday 7th March, which means that all of the drama will unfold during the day on Monday 8th March Australian time. The winners of the British Academy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes have already been announced and are said to predict the outcome of the Oscars. However, as last year’s Best Actor category showed, where Mickey Rourke won at the majority of award ceremonies but lost out to Sean Penn for the big one, the winners are not necessarily set in stone. Here are my tips for who will win and who should win an Oscar.

Best Lead Actor Jeff Bridges has been winning acclaim for his role of grizzled country singer “Bad” Blake in Crazy Heart. He also actually performs the songs in the film. I expect him to win this year based on his large and impressive body of work and his previous four nominations. For my money, Colin Firth should win for his portrayal of a college professor planning to suicide after the death of his lover in A Single Man.

Best Lead Actress Sandra Bullock is strangely in the lead to win best actress for The Blind Side as well as worst actress for the bomb All About Steve. As a heartstring tugging sports flick, all tickets to The Blind Side should come with a box of tissues. Bullock is probably the best thing in it, so I’d prefer the award go to Cary Mulligan for her performance as a 1960’s schoolgirl who is swept off her feet by an older man in An Education.

Best Supporting Actor Austrian actor Christolph Waltz will be unstoppable in this category. His remarkable Nazi Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds is easily the most memorable villain of the year. Expect an acceptance speech where Waltz babbles about how Basterd’s director Quentin Tarantino changed his life.

Best Supporting Actress Comedienne and actress Mo’Nique’s frighteningly gritty performance as neglectful and violent mother Mary in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (yes, that is actually the full title of the film) has already won several awards. She’ll accept her Oscar with an emotionally charged speech. God is sure to be thanked.

Best Animated Feature Disney’s return to hand drawn features with The Princess and the Frog, and two old school stop motion hits in Coraline and The Fantastic Mr Fox have made 2009 a very memorable year for animation. However, no other film, animated or otherwise, had the heart of Up. The first ten minutes of this Disney-Pixar classic are gut wrenchingly sad and will never leave you.

Best Director James Cameron will win for his motion capture remake of FernGully. His breakthroughs in high tech filmmaking (Terminator 2, The Abyss and Titanic) have shaped the film industry over the past twenty five years. He’ll never win a best screenplay award, but much like The Jazz Singer in 1927 which introduced sound to the cinema, Avatar will be remembered as a turning point in motion pictures. For films set on Earth, I’d love to see James Cameron’s ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow get the nod for The Hurt Locker.

Best Picture Dances with Smurfs will win, no question. This year, to improve TV ratings, the nominee list for best picture has been expanded to ten films. My picks for the silver medal would be South African sci-fi classic District 9 (love the prawns), Iraq-set military thriller The Hurt Locker and Quentin Tarantino’s rewriting of World War 2 history, Inglorious Basterds.

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 13:06  Leave a Comment  
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