Tom Hooper’s period biopic of King George VI’s abrupt appointment to the throne arrives on silver screens fully formed and totally deserving of all the recent plaudits it has received.
From the off it is entirely immersive and incredibly convincing in its portrayal of a troubled and put upon Prince Albert (Collin Firth) who not only has to live up to his father’s unforgiving expectations but also the hopes of a nation as an inevitable forward march into the second world war approaches. Having to deal with a debilitating stammer and the devastating misfortune of being the first King to address the nation via the then new, fan-dangled invention of wireless, young ‘Bertie’ was denied the comforts of later monarchs who benefitted from the pre transmission, editing process which cushions modern media today.
The angst, insecurity and distinct sense of impending failure this inspired in the man was well documented at the time through correspondence between himself and his Australian voice coach, come close friend, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Their primarily turbulent relationship went on to became one of the most famous in British royal history due to the importance of it’s outcome and the lasting effect it had on both of their lives.
Dated and dry stuff then you might think?
Populated by a small but supremely talented cast, the film is a veritable pleasure to behold. Collin Firth is simply magnificent as the stuttering sovereign, infusing a regal mix of self righteous indignation (with regards to his unfortunate reliance on the brash and unconventional Logue) with a sensitive and loving fragility, which presents him, quite pivotally, as merely a man struggling to confront deeply embedded issues rather than a whining, over privileged young royal, as so easily could have been the case.
A veritable pleasure to behold.
Aiding him in his plight, Geoffrey Rush is an absolute joy as the stubborn and ever optimistic Lionel Logue. With the Oscars fast approaching, awards and appraisal are being thrown at “King Collin” like confetti at a royal wedding but Hollywood’s elite and the general public alike would do well to take a minute to consider Rush’s incredible contribution to this film. His portrayal as a selfless and kind hearted man who’s boundary breaking and ceaselessly positive determination to help another, whilst simultaneously failing to fulfill his own dreams is both as rewarding as it is heartbreaking.
Amongst the supporting characters, Helena Bonham Carter is predictably excellent as the Queen Mother to be, sending out a timely reminder that she is just as brilliant a straight actress as she is in the character roles that have become so commonly associated with her of late. Meanwhile, Guy Pearce is as understatedly marvellous as ever as the rogue Prince David who spurns his lofty responsibilities to the throne for the love of a woman – a yank divorcee no less (awful, just awful!). Elsewhere, David Seidler’s exceptionally well penned script mines a welcome combination of warmth, sincerity and totally unexpected, yet wonderfully judged humour from the unlikely central relationship between the unorthodox Logue and the misfiring monarch.
Add all this to beautiful cinematography, sensational set and costume design and the end product is a wonderfully well rounded film, which surely, is going to prove a right royal pain in the Academy’s American arse. If you want to know what it feels like to be treated like a king, go and see this film.