Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 17th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Nightmare Before Kingship

film_kingshipsRoyal prince vs. stammer in masterful 'King's Speech'

If a Who's Who of Splendid British Thespians digging into a juicy true story of Royals in conflict is not your cup of tea, best steer clear of The King's Speech. But if you're looking for a  gorgeously mounted entertainment, a compelling history lesson, a wry comedy of manners, or just a jolly game of Name That Actor, prepare to gobble down this tasty and rewarding holiday treat about an accidental monarch thrust into the limelight, struggling to conquer a private affliction that makes his public life a nightmare.

Directed by Tom Hooper (his last film was the excellent soccer drama, The Damned United), from a witty script by David Seidler, The King's Speech concerns the royal English prince soon to be known to the world as George VI (and father of the current Queen Elizabeth). An unexpected heir to the throne, destined to lead his people through the ravages of World War II, all that stood between George and greatness was a crippling stammer that made it virtually impossible for him to speak in public.

Colin Firth queues up for his next Oscar nomination with a formidable performance as king-to-be Albert Frederick Arthur George ("Bertie" to his intimates). Duke of York, grandson of Victoria, son of the current King George V, and second in line after older brother Edward, Bertie is happy to concede the spotlight to more alpha males in the royal clan. Retired from the Navy, he lives quietly with his loyal, loving wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), and their daughters, the little princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

But it's the mid-1920s; the new medium of radio is sweeping the continent, and royals are required to deliver speeches to their people, live and over the air—which stuttering Bertie is physically unable to do. (An opening scene where he struggles to squeeze out words at a public exhibition is torturously intense, for Bertie and his audience.) Quack remedies (smoking, to "relax the larynx;" filling the mouth with marbles) fail to solve the problem, so Elizabeth turns to eccentric elocution therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Australian-born Logue has his own way of doing things. The scene where he and Bertie first size each other up (after Elizabeth has brought her husband there, incognito) sets the tone for both the power struggle and deep friendship to come. Bertie's droll sense of humor (often masked by his inability to voice it) finds a kindred spirit in unorthodox, blithely unpretentious Logue. The therapist wins the royals' trust, agreeing to focus on the "mechanical difficulties" of Bertie's speech, but better progress is made as Bertie begins to reveal his complex emotional relationships to his family, and his royal duties. All of which become even more acute after the death of old George V (a blustery, yet poignant cameo by Michael Gambon), and the abdication of jet-setting Edward (Guy Pearce) to marry his scandalous Mrs. Simpson—placing Bertie on the throne of England.

The film deftly portrays the evolving media of the day; along with newfangled elevators and motorcars, aeroplanes, recording devices, newsreels and "wireless" radio are shrinking the globe, ushering in a new age of communication. George V huffs that monarchs are forced to become "actors … invading people's homes." With the buffer of physical distance between a king and subjects thus bridged, a confident public persona is a crucial part of leadership. With no way out of his job (Elizabeth compares it to "Indentured servitude"), Bertie's ability to govern, as well as the fate of the nation, depend on a cure.

Yet the story's small human details are the most engaging: the robust partnership of Bertie and Elizabeth (and the warmth of their family life); the marvelous aplomb of Logue's wife (Jennifer Ehle) when she discovers Their Majesties in her kitchen for tea. The script percolates with empathy and wit; it may seem like a cheap laugh when Logue induces singing and swearing to loosen the prince's tongue, but Firth and Rush are so masterful at both film_kingspeechcomedy and subtext, these are virtuoso scenes. And with everyone from Derek Jacobi (as a meddling Archbishop) to Timothy Spall (as a ruminating Winston Churchill) popping up in supporting roles, this is an impressive royal feast of a film.


★★★1/2 (out of four)

With Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. Written by David Seidler. Directed by Tom Hooper. A Weinstein release. Rated R. 118 minutes.


Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.


Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.


Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.


Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments


Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.


How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management


Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX


Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.