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“The King’s Speech,” Reviewed

“The King’s Speech,” Reviewed (photo)

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“The King’s Speech” looks like your mom’s favorite movie of the year, doesn’t it? A heartwarming, inspirational story, handsome period production design, a cutesy and weirdly photoshopped poster, not to mention a starring role for DILF supreme Colin Firth. Despite its mom movie credentials, this film somehow rises above its station to become more than just another in a long line of bland prestige pictures about royalty. With impeccable craft, a smart script, and two actors working at the top of their game, it’s the rare crowd-pleaser whose pleasures are more than base appeals to sentimentality. It’s hard to imagine a much better film being made from this material.

That material is the story of Albert, the Duke of York (Firth) — Bertie to his friends — and his struggle to overcome a lifelong speech impediment. As second in line to the throne Bertie really only has one responsibility, but it’s the worst responsibility imaginable for a stutterer: talking in public. An endless parade of doctors and failed cures eventually lead Bertie and his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) to the doorstep of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush). Logue’s techniques are unorthodox and controversial, two words, Bertie notes, that aren’t exactly popular amongst the British royal family. Not surprisingly, the pair hit it off like oil and napalm, as Logue sifts through the Duke’s ample emotional baggage searching for the root of his problem and Bertie resists his nosy speech therapist’s attempts to act like his psychotherapist.

Firth and Rush are brilliant together. Neither has an easy role. Firth has to make us sympathize with a guy who is rich, powerful, and never had to work a day in his life. The “heavy is the head that wears the crown” routine is an old one, but something about Firth’s performance feels fresh: his Bertie is far more human than his collection of sad royal stereotypes would imply. Firth’s incredibly convincing with the stuttering, too. Even when Bertie does improve, we still see Firth struggling against himself every step of the way. When he’s not stuttering, even his face is glacially calm, Firth manages to suggest the torrent of stammering waiting to erupt at any moment. As the straight man and second fiddle, Rush spends most of his time in reaction shots, but he moves emotional mountains with gestures and subtle twitches of that face which is blessedly free of Botoxian meddling.

As part of our podcast this week I watched a lot of movies about royalty, many of them showcases for great actors like “The King’s Speech.” Too many of these kinds of movies are as restrained visually as their subjects are emotionally, made by directors content to coast along on good performances and source material. Thankfully director Tom Hooper is much more willing to experiment. Where most royalty movies are stiff, “The King’s Speech” is nimble. The camera is always leading or following Firth through the hallways of power in a manner (and to an effect) that recalls Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.” Rather than dramatizing the enormity of the conflict with high angles and wide-shots, Hooper keeps the camera pinned to Firth, emphasizing the flawed, nervous person in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. Hooper also uses a subtle fish eye lens in some crowd scenes, which cleverly enhances the intimidating nature of Bertie’s surroundings by exaggerating their monstrous size. In the therapy sessions, he films Firth and Rush at rigid, perpendicular angles (to reinforce the tension between these men who are often at loggerheads) and often pushes them to the sides of the frame (to suggest Bertie feels disconnected from the world around him).

Screenwriter David Seidler makes a mistake with a needless and cheap third act twist designed to inject some false jeopardy into Bertie and Logue’s relationship. But the rest of his screenplay is filled with tart, tangy dialogue and an empathetic ear for character, and grows both leads into men we truly care for. Even the schmaltzy finale, in which one of the characters receives a veritable curtain call from an entire nation, strikes the right note between restraint and sentimentality. “The King’s Speech” probably will be your mom’s favorite movie of the year. But it’s so damn well-made it could make your top ten list too.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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