The King’s Speech is a very formulaic film. It’s the classic struggle story – a otherwise brilliant person has to confront his own problems in order to succeed for the betterment of society. If the film was in lesser hands, the film’s plot cliches would make the film completely forgettable. But with Tom Hooper and a excellent cast, The King’s Speech soars. Speech tells the story of Prince Albert also known as The Duke of York also known as the future King George VI of England after his brother abdicated from the crown. He’s a great man, a naval officer, who suffers from a very rare problem that most normal men do not: he has a stutter. As the film opens, we watch Albert struggle through a speech to open a horse race. It’s such a shift-in-your-seat awkwardly painful scene to watch. Hooper gives us the POV of Albert, allowing us to look at all of the sighing and head shaking citizens that are waiting for Albert to continue his speech from a long pause. Everyone has a fear of public speaking, but when it’s part of your life to inspire and rally, the fear is maximized. Prince Albert has little choice. He needs to fix his speech. Luckily, he has a loving wife (played subtly by Helena Bonham Carter) who isn’t going to give up on him. After several failed attempts, she hires Lionel Logue, a credential-less failed actor turned speech therapist, who uses his unconventional methods to probe into the mind of Albert (whom he calls Berty) and find the psychological reason behind his stammer.
The King’s Speech was a big winner at Toronto International Film Festival and now I can see why. While the story is fairly predictable, the situation and characters that inhabit the film takes back whatever lack of emotional resonance that the film’s cliches tries to displace. The backdrop of a encroaching World War II and the firm set magnifying glass on the inner politics of the Royal family make for a interesting film in itself. The addition of the wonderful character of Lionel Logue and the treatment sessions between him and Albert make for comedic interludes of vocal exercises and thrilling scenes of dramatic back and forth. It’s here that Albert becomes a fully formed character and where a unlikely friendship blooms between him and Lionel. This film, at heart, is a true bromance film. It’s like a British period piece version of I Love You, Man. The chemistry between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush is among the best I’ve seen this year. They hit all the right notes in every scene. They’re both prime scene stealers in past films they’ve done supporting work for. Here, they constantly battle to upstage each other. The result is electrifying. These two are at the top of their game and their sessions together are among the best scenes I’ve seen in film this year. They are complemented well with a excellent cast – as I mentioned, Helena Bonham Carter plays the subtle role as Mother Superior. It’s a nice break to watch her do something else than playing a over-the-top villain as she has done in recent past (most notably, the Harry Potter films). She’s a brilliantly underrated actress. This understated performance she has in The King’s Speech ranks among her best. Then there’s Guy Pearce, a actor who always seems to be around, but hasn’t yet expanded on his potential once demonstrated in Memento. Here he shows that he can still steal a scene, particularly in a confrontation scene where he demeans his brother’s stutter. He chews into the cruelty of his character as he insults Albert by calling him, “B-B-B-B-B-B-Berty”. Finally, there’s Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, and Michael Gambon. They all play important roles such as Archbishop Cosmo Lang, Winston Churchill, and King George V, respectively, but with their natural characterization, they chew deep into the characters, delivering fine performances with their limited screen time.
While The King’s Speech offers imaginative camera movement, it also displays a rather dull set design. I don’t find the film uninspired, but it’s a bit flat and uninteresting. The same brownish, grayish color scheme dominates the majority of the film making it look as boring as possible. If it weren’t for the brilliant plot and acting, this film would probably be the most boring British period piece film of the last decade and a half. Luckily, the costumes are appropriately period while the make up doesn’t is used just enough to realize the actors aren’t wearing any. Not only does the cinematography have wonderful tracking shots, it also fills the screen with meticulous compositions. I fell in love with practically every shot in the film because of the powerful and confident way the scenes were shot. The editing is so brisk that you hardly notice it. Alexandre Desplat’s score, while powerful at times, is nothing extraordinary, but solid. The film is a technical powerhouse. As a director, veteran TV director Tom Hooper has crafted what I think shall be known as his breakthrough film. He has arrived.
For history buffs like me, this is the best kind of film. It’s funny, heartbreaking, and filled with excellent acting. Sure, it may be rather dull to look at times and the film’s beats are about as predictable as a horror film, but the lively characters, brilliant script, and excellent cinematography more than make up for it. The King’s Speech is easily one of the best films of the year. Bravo. B+
For Your Consideration:
- Best Picture of the Year
- Best Director
- Best Actor in a Leading Role – Colin Firth
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Geoffrey Rush
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Helena Bonham Carter
- Best Original Screenplay
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costume
- Best Make Up
- Best Original Score
Thanks for reading my inaugural post! Hope you enjoyed it.