The King’s Speech

6 Dec

Title: The King’s Speech
Year:
2010
Director:
Tom Hooper
Writer:
David Seidler
Starring:
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall
MPAA Rating:
R, some language
Runtime:
118 min
Major Awards: 1 Golden Globe, 2 SAG Awards, DGA Award, PGA Award, 7 BAFTAs
IMDb Rating:
8.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
93%

As it has been said frequently about The King’s Speech, this is a film that ticks every single box in the Oscar rulebook, an amazing biopic about a British monarch, an inspirational period piece, boasting some seriously incredible performances by beloved actors. And yeah, in that sense I guess you know what to expect when you watch this film, but just you wait until you get to watch it, it’s a seriously wonderful thing.

I thought James Franco was going to go head to head with Colin Firth for the Best Lead Actor Oscar after seeing 127 Hours, but after seeing this one, I think it’s clear Mr. Firth will win the award, and every single precursor award before that. Last year he got his first nomination for his sublime performance in A Single Man, which was an exceptional film, but he obviously lost to the more deserving Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart. This year, however, there will be no stopping him, and he’ll get this most deserving win.

Not to mention that the film is already poised to go against The Social Network for the Best Picture honors, and Geoffrey Rush has a really good chance at nabbing his second Oscar, the first one was for his leading performance in Shine, in the Best Supporting Actor category, and that Helena Bonham Carter also has a really good shot at the Best Supporting Actress trophy.

And The King’s Speech is such a special film because it manages to have all these biopic standards down to perfection, while still being a seriously entertaining film, and that at its core is just one very good buddy film. It perfectly combines the things that will please the commercial crowd with the technical mastery that will have the critics drooling. And when you have Mr. Firth and Mr. Rush to play the two unlikely buddies, the result is spectacular, two acting greats doing their thing like it’s nobody’s business.

A very inspirational flick, one that can be very funny at times and that in the first half of the 20th century finds the ideal context in which to tell a very good human story. And it really is all because of Mr. Firth and Mr. Rush, who play of each other sensationally well, the result being one breathtaking example of prime acting.

Mr. Firth plays the Duke of York, who suffered from a terrible stutter which he was made to fix as he was crowned King George VI. While Mr. Rush plays Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian speech therapist hired to help him and with whom he forms the most unlikely of alliances. This is the best one-on-one acting I have seen in a really long time, Mr. Rush is electric as the speech therapist and Mr. Firth is unbelievable as Albert, a king being a reluctant pupil to a common man.

The relationship that develops is seriously astounding, and these two embody their roles to absolute perfection, engaging in a game of push-pull that’s written seriously well, and that is just elevated to a whole new other level by the uniqueness these two performers add to their roles, further enhancing these rich characters who actually existed and went through it, and humanizing the British monarchy while at it.

And even though Mr. Firth and Mr. Rush will get all the attention, and probably all the awards, and will do so deservedly, the rest of the cast is just as tremendous. Helena Bonham Carter as I said is bound to be in the thick of the Supporting Actress race for her performance as the Duchess of York; Michael Gambon is amazing as Albert’s father; Guy Pearce, an Australian playing an Englishman, is outstanding as Albert’s brother who abdicates the throne;  and Derek Jacobi is great as the Archbishop of Canterbury. So yes, this is a film that’s simply well acted, everyone brings their top game to the table and the result is marvelous, a film full of flawless performances.

A lot of credit also has to be given to Tom Hooper, the director. The man can seriously let his actors be, and he can tell one helluva story with class, and treat any topic with a fresh hand and give it a great pacing and feel. If you need further proof you only have to see the work he has done for HBO, meaning Elizabeth I and, most recently, John Adams, and you’ll see that the guy can approach a tale so embedded in history in the greatest of ways, same goes for The Damned United, a feature film of his starring Michael Sheen that was seriously good.

This is a very good film, propelled by a truly masterful performance from Mr. Firth. It’s all about his character and the fear his stutter gives him, the man has to make a speech to all the nation at Wembley Stadium, and the shock and horror that overtakes him at the prospect of having to do with such a bad form of speech is conveyed to perfection by Mr. Firth, he looks positively terrified, afraid, disappointed at himself for not being able to perform his royal duties properly. He brings a huge amount of humanity to the character, and we start seeing the layers come off slowly as he is set up against Mr. Rush’s character, and the two together provide some of the best scenes film has seen this year.

If this film goes on to win Best Picture at the Oscars a part of me will be disappointed, I liked The Social Network better, and a few other films this year as well, but I would totally get it if it won. But on the other hand, if Mr. Firth somehow fails to win the Best Actor trophy, no matter who else gets it, I’ll be upset; his is a performance to remember. And he is the one that makes this such a great film, his scenes with Mr. Rush are impeccable, a film that tackles a topic that could resonate in any era, a man faced with a horrible problem who has surrendered to it, and the one that’s parterened with him, thinking that nothing is impossible. To take the journey with these two is just a thoroughly satisfying cinematic experience, and thus The King’s Speech is a crowning achievement.

Grade: A

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