To care or not to care, that is the question. The latest film to tackle royal subject matter is an adaptation of a well-meaning and well-made stage play. But, the film is based on a play that, in fact, never was. So, you begin to see the problem here. It’s not as though the director and crew were incapable of making the material compelling, but ultimately the effort is disappointing and lacking any serious import.
The story, thin as it is, concerns itself with Colin Firth’s soon-to-be King George VI (Bertie to those closest to him) and his bloody stammer. Since a king in the modern age does little more than give speeches, Bertie begins elocution lessons with Geoffrey Rush’s Lionel Logue. From there, the film ambles along predictably with witty banter and training montages until Bertie can overcome his fears and find his voice.
Being predictable isn’t always a curse, so long as the execution picks up the slack. Just look at Avatar. Unfortunately, I found the heavy-lifting done by both Firth and Rush to be insufficient. Firth is really good here. He’s full of ticks and frustrations, but you get little sense of the man behind the impediment. It’s hard to tell with all the stuttering, but Firth seems little more than a stiff and pampered monarch, with little else there. I found Rush to be the standout, lifting up Firth’s performance the same way the real King was aided by Mr. Logue. His altruistic character is sharp but quirky, in an endearing fashion.
The training scenes are, by far, the best thing the film has going for it, but more often than not the film switches to some royal shenanigans that either move Bertie closer to the crown or have a famous Brit pop into the movie. (Hey look, Winston Churchill!) These scenes are quite unnecessary, and boring since we know Bertie will be King soon enough. This exercise in prestige wouldn’t be complete without a tacked on finale with Hitler and his rising tide of Nazism to let the audience know how really, really important what you’re watching is.
Tom Hooper (The Damned United, John Adams) tries to liven the piece up with many, many, many wide-angle camera tricks to lend a more immediate sensation, but they felt more than a little forced. By the end, I couldn’t understand why this was a movie. Other than the talented cast, there was nothing about it that took full advantage of the medium. Things get worse when you add in my general lack of interest in the trivial history of the British Royal Family. The Queen is a brilliant example of how to pique my interest in mundane crap by utilizing metaphor and classic filmmaking techniques. The King’s Speech keeps things simpler. If you enjoy watching one man’s personal triumph over adversity, despite the absence of any major consequence, then you care a lot more than me.