365 High-Def Days of Oscar: Day 13
Best Original Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Mixing
THE PLOT THUS FAR
Britain’s King George VI (Colin Firth) struggles with an embarrassing stutter for years until he seeks help from unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in this biographical drama that chalked up multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Logue’s pioneering treatment and unlikely friendship give the royal leader a sense of confidence that serves him and his country well during the dark days of World War II.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Unorthodox therapies led by practitioners who produce outstanding results but do not have an academic background or society’s seal of approval are mostly shunned by the public. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), however, an unlicensed speech therapist from Australia who uses unorthodox methods proves extremely valuable in his attempt to help King George VI of England overcome a serious stammer in Tom Hooper’s highly entertaining The King’s Speech. Based on a true story, the film, written by veteran screenwriter David Seidler, breaks no new grounds stylistically but has a substantial core of truth that overcomes the limitations of its genre and makes it not only an engaging experience that is full of wit, but also one that is quite moving.
The speech therapy sessions are filled with pathos and humor. An unlikely friendship begins between two men from vastly different worlds – Logue insists on equality, calling the duke “Bertie.” Logue knows that in most cases, stammering results from traumatic childhood experiences, although Bertie scoffs at this assertion. “I was always like this,” he insists, Logue replying that no infant begins talking in a stammer. Gradually, his harsh treatment as a child – what we would consider child abuse today – is revealed, sometimes in song at Logue’s insistence, when it is too painful to relate in speech. This breakthrough is one of the most powerful scenes in the film, and made me cry both times I saw it. At one point, the two men have a nasty argument and a disruption of their relationship. Bertie makes some cruel comments, mocking Logue’s background and questioning his motivation. You can clearly see the hurt on Logue’s face as Bertie walks away.
The contrast between George and Edward VIII is most fruitful. It’s the clash between duty and hedonism, fulfilling one’s personal quest for happiness vs. overcoming one’s worst fears on behalf of your people and country. Edward is typically romanticized and lionized, but here we see him as more of a spoiled, selfish lout.
But the heart of the movie is the relationship between George and Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who is helping him overcome his speech problems. Both actors are at the absolute top of their form. Firth is brilliant as the aloof, initially reluctant and distrustful monarch, while Rush shows the same wink-of-the-eye humor and irony that he did as Barbossa, relishing the sheer inequality of their positions yet knowing the extent to which George is dependent on him.
The Blu-Ray comes with a rich audio commentary from the director that seems to have been recorded before Award Season kicked into full blast. You also get a ton of featurettes that help to explore the historical background of the film, while giving the actors room to talk about their roles. You even get some speech highlights from the real King George VI and Lionel Logue. If the A/V Quality of this disc is the measure of future Weinstein Company releases from Anchor Bay/Starz, then I’m intrigued. While the transfer did grow soft in Lionel’s office, the transfer blew me away during the lush historical recreations of wartime England. The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track is a rich mix that also serves to remind home theater enthusiasts that all films have the potential to work your surround sound system. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.
RELEASE DATE: 04/19/2011