Sunday, May 29, 2011

The King's Speech

Britain in the late thirties was at a major crossroads. At the turn of the century the British Empire was the largest in history, controlling so much of the earth that there was no part of the empire that was not seeing daylight at any given point of the day. They literally controlled nearly half the population of the earth. Through world war, uprisings and general unrest at being empirical subjects, the reign of George V saw the first three decades of the 20th Century take a great deal of power from that empire. Toward the end of his life, George saw things potentially getting much much worse. It looked as though Europe, including Britain, may well be on the verge of yet another world war and, with his health failing, his sole heirs were a playboy who cared more about mistresses than civic duty and a nervous, bland younger son who could barely speak due to an awful stammer. The latter, however, decided enough was enough and he must both grow a backbone and eliminate that stammer.

He was growing increasingly frustrated in his efforts, as nothing seemd to work, when suddenly an odd actor from Australia came along and seemed to have the answer he’d been looking for. He was unorthodox and so were his methods. He was the last person a potential heir to the throne would be expected to become subject to. Lionel made the Duke of York come to his office in a nasty part of town. He referred to the Duke as Bertie, a family nickname, and made him talk about personal, private matters. All of this made the Duke very uncomfortable, but the more he opened up and let himself go, the more he became the man he was hoping to be.

The King’s Speech is about more than him overcoming his stammer, it is about the friendship of this very odd pair and the making of a king. It was a good thing the Duke of York decided to get himself into shape, as his father died just before World War II broke out and his older brother abdicated from the throne to marry his mistress almost immediately after taking the thrown. It was a decisive move at a delicate time. On this note, King’s Speech is very interesting. I love history and it was great to watch a ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of an important moment in Western history.

That said, while I liked the movie, I didn’t love it. I don’t think they did a good enough job of showing the stakes behind it all. Outside of the occasional mention by one of the characters of the import of his attempts to better himself, the film never really portrayed the basis for that import. Only once do they show Hitler or anything military at all. There was very little shown of the government dissension (for crying out loud Ireland removed the monarch from it's constitution on the day of his ascension to the throne) and nothing shown of the poverty and unrest of England or the rest of the empire. In other words, it was vital that the king become a strong, powerful leader at this pivotal point, but you wouldn’t know that from the film alone. I never felt like much was at stake other than the personal battles of the Duke of York.

Long story short, it was a movie that was interestingly shot, very well acted, but never really sucked me in all that much. I liked it, but I didn’t love it and I certainly didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to.


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