Movie review: The King's Speech
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Opens locally Christmas Day, 2010, Rated R
Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce
Directed by Tom Hooper (The Damned United, the "John Adams" HBO series)
"The King's Speech" was just nominated for 7 Golden Globes including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colin Firth), and Best Supporting Actor and Actress (Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter). All well deserved, this movie will be on mine, and many other critics' "Best of" lists for 2010, and is the not the "art house" movie that it may seem, nor is it just the "critical favorite"...With fine acting, inspiration, and a surprising thread of laugh-out-loud comedy, it is just a really good movie that should be seen by all this holiday season.
The Plot. It's 1936 and England's Prince Albert (Firth) must ascend the throne as King George VI, but he has a speech impediment. Knowing that the country needs her husband to be able to communicate effectively, Elizabeth (Carter) hires Lionel Logue (Rush), an Australian actor and speech therapist, to help him overcome his stammer.
The film's title then, has double meaning. First, "The King's Speech" is in reference to his very noticable stammer. Secondly, it is in reference to the film's climax, when the new King must deliver a radio speech to calm his country who is on the brink of war and without a real leader.
Royal Performances. Colin Firth was simply amazing in his subtle role in last year's "A Single Man", a film in which earned him an Oscar nomination. He is a shoe-in to win another won this year for this performance. His "Bertie", as the king was called, is a man of royalty and is not used to getting less than a king's treatment. As his character encounters and eventually befriends speech therapist Logue, we see him swallow his pride and slowly let down his guard. This is done brilliantly throughout the movie, not to mention the physical challenges Firth faces in playing a character who can't spit a word out.
Geoffrey Rush truly deserves recognition as well, and his is a different flavor of brilliance. Where Firth's Bertie is a struggle to watch and play, Rush's performance as the slightly arrogant Lionel is effortless. They refer to intangible screen magic as "chemistry", and few ensembles this year have created such beautiful chemistry. Throw in Helena Bonham Carter as the caring Queen, and a spot-on look-alike performance by Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, and we are witnessing true British acting royalty at the top of their games.
Great Power. But enough of the acting, the story itself is an inspiration. We get a relatable human story about a man, not just a king, who must overcome his own shortcomings. His stammer is not a physical disability, it is a mental one. We relate to Bertie because his stammer represents our struggles, our inabilities and weaknesses. His journey hones in on our own ability to conquer these weaknesses. This small, human theme is set with a backdrop of Kings and Queens, and a country's fear on the brink of war. The stakes have never been higher, for the individual or for the entire population. How the film keeps it's light comedic edge throughout is also a tribute to the filmmaker, Tom Hooper, as he infuses the heavier material with such fun, that it's hard for us not to react positively.
Fit for a King. When it comes time for the King to finally give his speech, it is a testament to the film, it's director, and it's actors, that we don't even care what the king is saying...it's more important that he is saying anything at all. That is the lasting thought coming out of "The King's Speech": That one's character is king, not content. In a charming way, "The King's Speech" tells us loud and clear to aspire to find our own voice, and not just the one we can hear.
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