The King's Speech (2010) / Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language
Running time: 118 min.
Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Eve Best
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenplay: David Seidler
Review published January 10, 2011
An atypical underdog story, The King's Speech is a well executed piece through and through, featuring very fine performances, good character touches and wit in the script (David Seidler, Tucker), Tom Hooper's (The Damned United, "John Adams") consummate direction, and great period touches in its costume and art design. In short, it's exactly the kind of Weinstein studios Oscar bait that gets produced and released in December every year, yet thoroughly enjoyable even though it's widely viewed as such.
The film follows the rise of Prince Albert (Firth, The Accidental Husband), the Duke of York, to become King George VI of England, who unexpectedly ascended to the throne in 1936 when his brother, King Edward VIII (Pearce, The Proposition), abdicates.
The "Speech" of the title has a double meaning, as it presents us with the address to the nation to declare a war against Hitler's Germany, but also the preparation for giving such a speech, as George suffered, not only from shyness, but also from a nearly lifelong inability to speak without severely stuttering, in terms of "speech lessons" given to George by an unlicensed Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Rush, POTC 3).
The film also showcases the unlikely friendship between the Royal and the commoner, a bond that would especially prove crucial as England is on the throes of turmoil amidst an ever more dangerous world.
Firth is commanding as Albert, giving his character the touch of edgy sensitivity necessary to feel sympathy for someone who we might have a hard time identifying with, being a member of the Royal Family. Geoffrey Rush provides the perfect complement, with an energetic and charismatic character that seems almost unflappable, breaking down Albert's snootiness (Logue insists on calling "his Highness" by the nickname only his family dare use, Bertie) and instilling him confidence by putting him on the same level as everyone else. Helena Bonham Carter rounds out the stars as Albert's shrewd wife and future Queen Mother, Elizabeth (Carter, Alice in Wonderland).
The King's Speech almost comes across as a somewhat slight slice-of-life in its scope, which, when you consider the actual importance of the players involved, makes it one of the more refreshing films of 2010. It's a personal story about public figures -- those who, despite having it all, still suffered from a childhood of bullying and public ridicule. Perhaps, for those with historian leanings, the complex characters play out a tad too simply, but that's a storytelling technique that works well in not diluting the thematic resonance. The figures may be larger than life, but the portrait is personal and readily identifiable. The KIng's Speech humanizes normally unapproachable public figures in a way that so rarely happens in film,
©2011 Vince Leo