The King’s Speech
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush
Running Time: 2 hrs
Release Date: November 26, 2010 (limited)
PLOT: This film follows King George VI (Colin Firth) and his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) as the king struggles with his newfound position and the speech impediment that threatened to end his reign before it began.
WHO’S IT FOR? Historical drama fans will be impressed with the lavish sets and the gorgeous costumes, but The King’s Speech always has a way with humor. Fans of Mrs. Henderson Presents may be familiar with this type of balancing act.
EXPECTATIONS: As a fan of British humor, I was expecting a dry sense of humor and memorable performances from the leads. After all, the buzz surrounding this one is that it’s a surefire Oscar contender. Still, whenever the Oscars are at a stake, I’m a little skeptical, but the actor’s and the intriguing true story were more than enough to tide me over.
Colin Firth as King George VI: I’ll admit, I’m one of those crazy people that’s still mad that Firth didn’t take home the Oscar for A Single Man. Still, it’s a rarity that a performer delivers two Oscar-worthy performances in a row. Firth conveys more in his stutters than most actors can deliver in a monologue. His performance is proof positive that true acting is more than what the character says.
Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth: Helena Bonham Carter brings a sense of levity in the relationship in desperate times, but is just as powerful in her dramatic moments. The only thing the movie suffers from is not enough of this character. She’s charming and caring, but equally willful and independent. It is this kind of complexity that makes Bonham Carter an utter delight to watch whenever she is on screen.
Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue: Lionel is the soul of the movie. It’s true that the film is about King George VI’s speech impediment, but Lionel’s humor and heart are what make the movie memorable. The character is relatively unexplored (in the “what you see is what you get” kind of way) but it’s interesting to see the different ways the movie portrays him. The audience gets the opportunity to see him as jokester and friend, but it is in those tender moments where we are shown Lionel as a family man that he truly stands out. These moments are fleeting, but they are powerful nonetheless.
TALKING: Like I said before, it’s not just what the movie says, but how it chooses to say it. Obviously, the idea of one’s voice is crucial in a movie about King George VI’s speech impediment, but in those scenes where the king is faltering for words are just as memorable as any of the rest. Still, Rush’s delivery of smart as a whip dialogue threatens to steal the show every so often. That being said, the movie is not without its moments of solemnity. What’s impressive here is that the movie seems sure of what it wants to say, but delights in those delicate pauses that keep the audience in an odd sort of suspense. In short, The King’s Speech shows an impressive command of the comedic and the dramatic and positions them beautifully throughout the film.
SIGHTS: One of the few faults of the film is that I felt like I’d seen it before. Not the story, but literally, seen those same set pieces and period costumes in other movies. I’ll admit, I’ve got a bit of an untrained eye when it comes to set design details, but there was nothing particularly impressive about the images of the film. In a movie that’s so concentrated on speech and saying the right thing, it seems like what movie going audiences see falls to the wayside. It doesn’t distract or take anything away from the film, but it doesn’t add much either.
SOUNDS: Music never really plays a crucial role as the events of The King’s Speech play out. There is one powerful example of music in the film’s climactic scene, but other than that, it’s never very noticeable. The main instances of music in the film are to establish the time period or to remind audiences that Firth’s character is royalty, so it’s pretty much a given that he’d listen to classical music. Once again, there’s nothing too much to say about the music except that it’s used sparingly and when it is used, it works well.
BEST SCENE: This is difficult to choose. Like I said, the movie is equal parts comedy and drama. For comedy, it would have to be the King’s string of obscenities in Lionel’s office. For the dramatic parts of the movie, it might have to be the beginning when King George VI delivers his first failed attempt at public speaking. The pity in the audience’s eyes is just too much.
ENDING: The ending wraps up the film nicely. The King’s Speech sets out with a very specific purpose, so the conclusion is pretty natural. The titles about what happened between the two leads after the events of the movie was a nice touch.
QUESTIONS: Not so much of a question as a statement. I would have liked to see what the childhood of King George VI was like to better understand the character, but that would be a whole other movie.
REWATCHABILITY: It would be limited, since it clearly is an awards season type of movie, but the humor and the performances would be enough to draw me in again, but I might wait till DVD.
The King’s Speech details the story of King George VI’s attempts to overcome his speech impediment and the man that helps him along the way. However, to characterize the movie as simply that ignores the offerings of the movie as a whole. of course most of the buzz has been predicting its success at the Oscars this year, but besides the strong performances, The King’s Speech shows an excellent understanding of its characters and its dialogue.
Just as much as it is the performances (which is mainly what The King’s Speech is getting rave reviews about) it’s Hooper’s ability to dance between the comedic and the dramatic. There are moments of absolute hilarity (in the dry, British humor kind of way) mixed with such emotional sincerity.
To me, that is the strength of this movie. It shows a kind of complexity that many of us recognize from our own lives, but also, it shows a king in all his uncertainty as ruler of the British empire. Most importantly, it shows the king as a man, not unlike his subjects.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10