Thursday, February 24, 2011

The King's Speech


Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter

Though he was often forced to attempt public speaking by his father, England's King George V, the future King George VI (Firth) was second in line to the throne behind his brother, and therefore did not expect (nor necessarily want) to be a king. When his brother, King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates the throne in order to marry his divorced lover Wallis Simpson, George VI becomes the king and must, after years of failed speech therapy, find a reasonable cure for his stutter with the help of a new and unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue, (Rush) in order to represent England and lead the people of England through World War II.

The King's Speech is a small, somewhat quiet movie with a lot of character. Shot with muted tones, it appears vintage without the usual camera and film tricks that accompany some period pieces that strive for authenticity. The story is interesting and fairly straightforward; there isn't a lot of exposition nor are there many (if any) flashbacks. Rather, the action takes place in the present, with any background narrative delivered conversationally, and with such subtlety to appear completely natural, thanks in part to a great screenplay by David Seidler. Director Tom Hooper previously worked mainly as a television director, but many of the films/series are period pieces, which certainly explains the exquisite detail paid to the look of the film.

The excellent performances by the three main actors in The King's Speech complement the film beautifully. Helena Bonham Carter's role, as George VI's wife, Queen Elizabeth, is reminiscent of where she got her start in films, in a bunch of Merchant-Ivory period pieces. It's sometimes hard to remember that she has the acting chops she does since she tends to play over-the-top characters now, but her portrayal of Elizabeth as a devoted, but strong and independent wife was wonderful. Geoffrey Rush probably had the role that was the most fun to play, as an eccentric, failed actor, somewhat derided (but proud) for being Australian rather than British, and above all, really good at what he does. Rush could go from chutzpah to reverence in a snap, and make it believable and natural. And in terms of believable, Colin Firth is superb as King George VI. He is sympathetic without being pitiful, and though his self-confidence and resolve were not high, Firth's performance enabled us to see George VI's gradual transformation into a leader. Never mind having to affect a frustrating stutter while doing it.

I really have nothing but good things to say about The King's Speech. It fulfilled all of my expectations and is truly my kind of film; small, independent, story and character-driven. Because of this, especially since I acknowledge that it is a really good film, I am unsure why it still proceeded to leave me a little flat, but it did. I didn't have excessively high expectations for the film, but maybe it was because I took it for granted that I would like The King's Speech yet wasn't excited by any aspect of it, that it didn't blow me away. Having said that, I will surely own this film and recommend it to most people. And now I have hopefully seen enough good Colin Firth movies where I can forget the image of him dancing around in front of the mirror in leather pants playing air guitar in the "film" What a Girl Wants.

Yeah, it was on hotel cable on vacation - enough said.

4 out of 5 stars

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