The King’s Speech (2010)
Yet one more reason why Colin Firth is no longer the thinking man’s version of Hugh Grant.
The King’s Speech is the true story of good ol’ King George VI in the 1930s who finds himself wearing the crown at the outset of World War II because his older brother is too whipped to man up and take his rightful place on the throne. Only problem is, Georgie Boy has himself one seriously mean speech impediment that leaves him at an inevitable loss for words on the airwaves. So after seeing countless doctors and specialists in the hopes of finding a way to overcome this crippling stammer of his, he begins meeting with an unorthodox Aussie speech therapist who starts to help him in ways he never though possible and gives him the self-confidence to be the voice of a nation in a time when they need it most.
Now, whether it’s 1910 or 2010, my knowledge of the British monarchy pretty much boils down to me guessing “Elizabeth” or “Henry VIII/the guy who had all those wives” whenever the said topic comes up on Jeopardy! The downside of my being so out of the loop on this topic is that I’m totally screwed if I ever get the urge to start a career in international politics, but the upside is that this whole story is brand spankin’ new to me. Same kinda vibe I got when I first saw The Queen, I knew absolutely nothing about any of that stuff. Granted, it’s always something to hear an inspiring story like this, but it’s always that much better when it’s actually a true story and one that’s been around for ages even though it may very well be common knowledge for my neighbors across the pond. Just cool to get that “How have I never heard of this?” feeling every once in a while when you go to the movies.
And even if the structure is somewhat familiar, it is an awfully fascinating story. Just off the synopsis, you can probably guess what kind of direction the plot is going to follow, but the thing that keeps this so compelling isn’t so much the way George goes from a borderline mute while speaking in public to a bonafide leader behind the mic, the heart of it all is actually the unlikely friendship he develops with the one person he wants nothing to do with.
On that note, it’s been a while since I’ve seen Geoffrey Rush in a movie that was worthy of having Geoffrey Rush in it. This is the guy from Shine we’re talking about, this guy is absolutely no joke when he’s working with the right material, but since he’s also appearing in The Warrior’s Way this weekend, seems like it’s been a while since the right material landed on Geoff’s doorstep. Anyway, here he is playing George’s speech therapist, Lionel Logue, and it’s so good to have him back in top form. He’s just a fun, fantastic, and perfect complement to the King of England’s closed-off, skeptical demeanor and it ends up making for a lot of witty and heartfelt back-and-forths between the two opposites.
I mean, Helena Bonham Carter is darn good as George’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (what did I say?), but unfortunately, when Lionel and George aren’t on-screen together, all I could think about during the other scenes was when I’d get to see Lionel and George together again. It’s really all about the chemistry with those two and the chemistry is palpable. Tons of outstanding character development for both of ’em and it’s the added element of this common man gradually becoming the King’s best friend despite their social differences that makes it stand out that much more. Nice to have Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon (he should probably just change his name to Dumbledore already) around as George’s brother and father respectively, but they’re in the same boat is Helena.
And while I’m all for Jeff Bridges any day of the week, it’s great to see Colin Firth back in the game after getting robbed for Best Actor last year. Firth plays our King, and just as he did with George Falconer, he freakin’ becomes George VI. It’s the totally convincing and painful-to-watch stutter, it’s the flaring temper that explodes with each new layer that gets peeled back, it’s Firth embracing this character like he’s been the guy all his life. The guy lights up the screen, you genuinely feel for what he’s going through and how heavily everything is weighing on him, and for a King, I feel like that’s a tall order to deliver. Then again, Colin Firth is the man.
Still gotta wait for True Grit to come out, but since Firth and Bridges are probably gonna be up against each other again this year, all I know for certain is that The Dude’s got his work cut out for him.
But Tom Hooper does a great job turning this talking heads movie into something surprisingly slick and exciting. Just very controlled camerawork, lots of extreme close-ups used at all the right times, lots of outstanding sets that range from dilapidated to regal yet all look equally gorgeous in their own ways. And what a swell script by David Seidler. Really sharp, really funny, and while it may lean a little more on the comedic side than the dramatic at times, Seidler always lets off this punch to the gut that drives it home and drowns out the laughs in just the right way. Definitely doing the cast a favor, not that they needed any favors to begin with.
So whether you can tell the difference between George V and George VI like it’s no big thing or are quite content with stopping at “Let them eat cake,” The King’s Speech is a great little movie that somehow manages to turn a speech impediment into something worth cheering over. Like I said, if the scenes that didn’t have Rush and Firth in them were as memorable as the ones that did, this would be an easy 8, but as is, it’s a very high 7. Nonetheless, an easy Oscar contender for acting, writing, and dozens more obscure categories that will once again screw you over on your scorecard.
And thank God they finally got rid of that stupid-ass poster.