Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The King’s Speech Is Well Delivered But I’ve Heard Better

The King’s Speech

As the Academy Awards draw nearer it is becoming clear that the best picture race is really between two films: The Social Network and The King’s Speech. While both are good films, The King’s Speech has the rather unfair advantage of being the type of film that is simply made for Oscars. It features the quintessential checklist of things that often appeal to the award voters: Period piece? Check. Features a person struggling with a disability? Check. Takes place during a major war? Check. Highlights a friendship that defies the normal social conventions? Check. Yet unlike most films that would simply rely on these aspects, The King’s Speech actually strives to be something more. It not only wants to entertain but provide insight into a way of life that is rarely accessible to the average person.

Directed by Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech documents the real-life story of King George VI (Colin Firth) who, after the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the abdication of the throne by his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), is given the task of being the new King just as the world is about to go to war. Hindered by his uncontrollable stutter, King George dreads the role that he now faces. Seeking a cure for her husband’s condition, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) asks speech expert Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) for assistance. Lionel’s methods are considered experimental and unconventional, but through his work he develops a special bond with King George VI. As the start of the war approaches, Lionel and King George must figure out a way to control King George’s stutter before he has to give one of the most important speeches of his life.


As odd as this may sound, King George VI’s stuttering actually turns out to be the least interesting aspect of The King’s Speech. While it is the obvious focal point of the film, the element that makes it such a strong film is the depiction Royal life. In many ways being a part of the Royal Family is like being in prison. Firth’s character even remarks that it is more like a “firm” than a family. Before having no choice but to accept his fate, King Edward VIII did everything he could to rebel against the standards that come with being a Royal Family member. Hopper does a good job of showing the differences between duty and free will through his interpretations of both King George V and King Edward VIII. Besides contrasting their different styles, he emphasizes the divide by showing King George VI’s struggle to navigate the two extremes.

Colin Firth does a wonderful job of conveying George’s inner conflict. The King’s Speech continues his string of solid performances of late. Both Firth and Rush bring an unexpected levity to the film that is surprisingly refreshing. It is easy to expect that a film of this nature would merely be stuffy and formal due to the subject matter, yet the performances help to raise The King’s Speech slightly above other films that have dealt with issues of royalty. The supporting cast is outstanding in the film. It is nice to see Bonham Carter playing a normal person once again. We have gotten so use to her playing broad characters that the film serves as a nice reminder of how good she can be in more subtle roles. It should also be noted that Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, and Timothy Spall are all fantastic in their supporting roles. Spall is especially good as Winston Churchill. I was so enamoured with his work, that I would not have minded if the film had veered off and just followed Churchill through the war years.

While I do not think it is the Best Picture of the year, I can see why The King’s Speech was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. It is a film that will educate and entertain at the same time. Plus the performances are what really make this film standout above many of its competitors.


11 comments:

  1. Firth is great in this role, but it's Rush who seems to be having the most fun here and makes his character one of the more charming ones I have seen in quite some time. However, Bale deserves that Oscar in all honesty.

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  2. Gah, this film makes me angry hahaha. It's just so dull overall...
    I'm not even impressed by Firth so it'll obviously win the Oscar.

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  3. I'm curious. Are you inferring that The Social Network should actually win the Oscar for Best Picture over The King's Speech (directed by Tom HOOPER) or do you have another movie in mind altogether? And if your answer is the former, then I need the name of your dealer. Only then would I maybe agree with you. ;-p

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  4. @CMrok93 – The award is pretty much Bale’s to lose. Rush does seem to have the most fun in the film, but part of that has to do with the way his character is written. Since Lionel is the only one not tied to the “establishment” he has more freedom to let loose.

    @Jose – I did not find it dull at all, I just did not think it was as great as people claim. Firth will get the Oscar mainly because they did not give it to him last year. His work in A Single Man was way better than his work in this film.

    @dEmon – To be honest I think Winter’s Bone is far more deserving of the award than either The Social Network or The King’s Speech.

    Also, nice catch on the typo…speaking of Tom Hooper, I don’t think he should get the director award. That should go to David Fincher.

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  5. I thought Carter was the best thing in the movie. It's a funny movie, one that got the crowd I saw it with roaring with laughter more than once, but in a few years time it won't be remembered all that well.

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  6. @Edgar – I completely agree with you on the film’s longevity. Although entertaining, it will not be one of those films that people will still be raving about in five years.

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  7. It did win the Best Oscar. I do think the movie's going to win. I just have to ask; why people are convinced that David Fincher is going to win rather than Tom Hooper?

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  8. @Andina – I think a lot of us were pulling for Fincher because he did the better job overall. The King’s Speech is enjoyable but a lot of it has to do with the acting and the script which was based on historical facts. The Social Network was simply a better film, from both a story and a technical standpoint. I also think it was a far more difficult tale to tell. Most people laughed at the idea of a movie about Facebook. Not only was the source material questionable, but Fincher somehow managed to get people to care about it and the villain. Again, I enjoyed both films but if I had to pick between the two, I would have given it to David Fincher.

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  9. Well I guess it was easier to do movies with clearer facts and inspiring true story. Maybe the one thing people forget is the message behind the story.

    Social Network raised a popular topic now, everybody uses facebook, haters and lovers. but still for me, the movie tells a story about the intrigue between friends and business partner, where someone backstabbed another. I just don't think it is as good as King's Speech message, whether it is easy or not to make the movie.

    but this is only my opinion. I don't know if this is really what the judges are considering :)

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  10. @Andina – You make a very valid point regarding the message of the two films. I would not be surprised if that was taken into consideration when the academy was voting. History has shown that films conveying positive themes tend to do better at the Oscars.

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  11. SN have a different approach though, still it is a movie people will remember or talk about. Thanks.

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