The King’s Speech
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.