"for the happy, the sad, I don't want to be, another page in your diary"

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Morning Coffee

I get home from Bingham in time to join L and the boys for morning coffee in bed. Then after a traumatic park session where we not only forget MD’s ball but we have to share the park with a cross country race complete with a Doggo upsetting starting pistol, we take an impatient Son back to Warwick University.

It’s the best day of the football season today, FA Cup Third Round day. Although Derby do not get their annual elimination by a lower division team until Monday.

Shock horror. A member of the dog club is not only on TV but doing physical activity. They’re on 'Total Wipe Out'. I think she came last but never mind.

Theoretically we have a race tomorrow, so it’s an AF night and a film.

‘The Kings Speech’ opens with King George V (Michael Gambon) asking his second son Prince Albert, the Duke of York, to deliver a speech at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition. The Duke (Colin Firth) is not the most confident of people, not helped by or possible the cause of a speech impediment and the prospect of public speaking simply terrifies him. He immediately becomes tongue tied in front of the crowd and stammers what words he can manage.

The Duchess (Helena Bonham Carter) takes her husband to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist from Australia. A man with no academic credentials but one who comes highly recommended although with unorthodox methods. They have already tried many professional therapists without success.

Before he realises who his new customers are Logue suggests that if her husband cannot cope with public speaking then perhaps a career change might be in order... not really possible she admits.

Logue agrees to treat her husband but only under his own rules in his own office. He doesn’t do house calls he tells her, not even for royalty. He also insists on using Christian names, so a reluctant ‘Bertie’ is coaxed to his first appointment. It doesn’t go well and when Logue records him reading the famous opening lines from Hamlet, you know ‘to be or not to be’ and all that jazz, but whilst wearing headphones so that he can't hear his own voice, the Duke’s patience runs out and he storms off.

It is not until sometime later than the Duke plays the recording of this speech that Logue gave him and realises his reading was almost perfect. Oddly the headphones trick is one that Logue doesn’t reuse; although it probably leant itself perfectly to some of the radio work the Duke has to do later.

So the Duke goes back to Logue and his therapy continues, during which an unlikely friendship develops between the two.

If he thought being in the public eye as a Duke was bad, circumstances were about to make things a whole lot worse. His elder brother David (Guy Pearce), the heir to the throne and a much more confident person, is chasing the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Meanwhile, going on in the background is the build up to World War II. It’s all actually a nice history lesson and for once no one has seen the need to alter the past. So this film will educate many people who do not know the history of this period.

When his father dies, David becomes King Edward VIII but in less than a year he has been forced to abdicate making Bertie now reluctantly King of England and his first task is to face a very public coronation ceremony.

Then the weight of leading Great Britain into conflict is thrust upon him as Britain declares war on Hitler’s Germany and the King is required to broadcast live to the nation on radio.

Now if I was King and was handed a nine minute broadcast I’d have told them to reduce it in size or face a trip to the Tower. Nine minutes... no thanks, shall we do four? Or off with your head. I'm sure that's how Queen Elizabeth I would have done it.

It is a tension filled scene but Logue is there to coach him and thankfully it is a resounding success.

It is a true story that the screenwriter David Seidler had wanted to write for some time but when he first attempted it in 1981 he was thwarted. Lionel Logue's son would not let him use his father’s diaries without permission from Buckingham Palace. Permission was given in principle but King George VI’s widow, by then commonly known as the Queen Mother, insisted that it would not be done ‘in her lifetime’. Poor Seidler then had to wait another 30 years to write his script as she went on to live to be 101.

I was very impressed with some excellent casting; everybody looked like the real people they were portraying, right down to Prime Minister’s Baldwin and Chamberlain. Even Timothy Spall was near perfect as Winston Churchill and I can't help thinking comedy whenever I see Spall.

Colin Firth gives a performance for which he is certain to be nominated for an Oscar while Helena Bonham-Carter was spot on as his wife but for me, it was Geoffrey Rush at his best as Logue who stole the show.

It’s a thoroughly entertaining piece of historical cinema that gives a fascinating insight into King George VI. Not only into the struggles he had with his speech but it also paints a picture of a man who never thought he would be King but, unlike his brother, he wanted to do his duty. He wasn't meant to be King, he wasn't groomed to be King nor was he particularly suited to be King but he did it and ultimately history shows that he did it well.

(Saturday 8th January)

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