A tale of personal triumph over adversity, of finding confidence in yourself to be the man that many others already know you can be, of stepping up to do your duty even when others have let you down, The King’s Speech is all of this and more and it also just happens to be all about King George VI of Britain, a man who struggled through a large portion of his life under the awkward burden of a very, very prominent speech problem.
It’s funny how this movie quickly became one of those I knew I was going to struggle to review. Why? Well, because everything has already been said about it and I happen to agree with all of the praise. Reviewing a movie is a most interesting experience when you discover and unknown gem or have a dissenting opinion that’s in the minority but when you feel that your opinion is a teaspoon of water being added to a large lake it’s harder to verbalise your passion and create some comment of worth for the movie in question. But I’ve always been foolhardy enough to try anyway.
Colin Firth is brilliant in the title role, and thoroughly deserving of all of the praise and awards that he’s been receiving. King George VI is not a warm and cuddly man, despite the movie trying it’s best to get us on his side from early on. No, he seems to be a man who wants to be in touch with the common people without having to go out of his way to mingle with them. He’s a man you feel frustrated for, his speech impediment stopping him from speaking out about many faults in those around him and you want to shake him and force him to struggle through a sentence in the company of his family. And he’s also prone to outbursts of profanity – which helps with his speech therapy when used properly.
Helena Bonham Carter plays the future Queen Elizabeth and is quite delightful. It’s funny to see Bonham Carter in a role that isn’t laced with darkness, quirkiness or slight lunacy and it’s also a worthy reminder of how good this English rose can be. Her Elizabeth is a mixture of concerned and supportive wife, staunch public figure and a woman of strong opinions.
Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue, the speech therapist guiding King George VI to that big, crucial moment, and it’s another great performance. Like Bonham Carter, it’s been perhaps too long since we’ve seen Rush give a performance that’s not supported by eye-rolling tics and twitches. Yes, his character is quirky and seems eccentric at times but he’s a speech therapist who knows how to get results, no matter how outlandish the means of getting there may seem.
With support coming from Guy Pearce (who is fantastic as King Edward VII, the man whose abdication would lead to King George VI taking the throne), Derek Jacobi (probably still Britain’s premiere performer of speech impediments due to his magnificent performance in I, Claudius), Michael Gambon (King George V) and Timothy Spall (stuck simply doing a half-decent impression of Winston Churchill) you can rest assured that you’re always getting top notch performances in pretty much every scene.
The direction, by Tom Hooper, and look of the thing is as sumptuous and assured as you’d think, it’s unspectacular but still consistently solid, with the focus moving to any microphone in view whenever Firth’s character has to attempt to make a speech.
And the script, perhaps surprisingly so for a movie about someone who can hardly speak, is fantastic. The exchanges between Firth and Rush are superb and you really get to see Firth’s character grow his skillset without it ever feeling false or rushed. In fact, every scene and almost every exchange of dialogue tells us a bit more about the lives of everyone involved and the factors that have infused their thoughts and actions, which is only right when considering how much of an effort getting the words out in the right order can be for our central character.
The Social Network and Black Swan edge ahead as my personal favourites of 2010 but The King’s Speech is certainly a worthy contender and Colin Firth may very well have given the performance of the year, thus deserving every one of the accolades lined up for him.
DIRECTOR: TOM HOOPER
STARS: COLIN FIRTH, GEOFFREY RUSH, HELENA BONHAM CARTER, GUY PEARCE, MICHAEL GAMBON, DEREK JACOBI, TIMOTHY SPALL
RUNTIME: 118 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: UK, AUSTRALIA, USA