Last Sunday, The King’s Speech was honored at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards as Best Picture, and also earned nods for Best Actor and Best Director. Does the film, starring Colin Firth as King George VI, live up to the hype?
Yes, and no.
Firth’s performance as the troubled monarch was phenomenal and very much deserving of his Best Actor award. Firth’s humanity is evident in nearly every frame, as the soon-to-be King battles a stammering issue that has plauged him since childhood with the help of a new Speech Coach, Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush).
The relationship between Berty and Lionel evolves and is the true focus of the film, as the two men test each other both physically, mentally, and emotionally. As the friendship blooms, Berty does in fact become King George VI, with Lionel at his side helping him reach his destiny as a major figurehead and symbol for Britain during World War II.
Firth really is the true marvel here, and it’s the role of a lifetime. As King George VI, he’s able to dive into a treasure chest full of conflict, both internally and externally. Firth manages to portray the British Royal with both compassion and desire, and he has to be commended for pulling off the stammer with wonderful grace. And while he doesn’t burst off the screen like a couple other Best Actor winners (Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland), he does put on a clinic on how to shine in a more reserved, less intense, role.
The rest of the cast, including Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Guy Pearce, are each able to add another layer of depth to the King’s character, and they all do a great job showcasing their abilities while never trying to steal focus from Firth’s performance. Rush brings a great deal of charm to the role of Logue, and he provides Firth with an “Everyman” with which to volley wit and struggle. Carter adds the kinder, gentler side, and her devotion to the King throughout the film acts as the glue holding everything together. Pearce shines in brief work as George’s older brother who abdicates the throne, and provides another antagonist for King George to overcome. Timothy Spall also shines in a couple of small scenes as Winston Churchill.
Director Tom Hopper shows great attention to detail, and the cinematography is stark, clean, and breathtaking. Hopper’s ability to pace the film carefully and slowly simmer the struggle of the protagonist allows for maximum impact at the climax, and the final speech is uplifting and full of emotion.
I guess, somewhat unfortunately, that my opinion of the movie is going to always come down to three questions:
Do I think The King’s Speech was the Best Picture of 2010? No, I don’t. I’d place it firmly in the Top Ten, though, sheerly based on the overall quality in all major areas.
Was Hopper worthy of the Best Director Oscar? Again, no, I think there were others that did more with less, and more with more.
Was Firth deserving of Best Actor? Absolutely.
But just because two of those three questions are answered with a “no” by me doesn’t mean the film is an overrated period piece mess. It’s not. It’s actually better than a great majority of its contemporaries.
The King’s Speech is a major overall success and easily one of the finest pictures of 2010. It’s an enjoyable film that never once flails, and it’s nice to finally find a historical film that doesn’t feel the need to go through the events in slow motion. Everything about The King’s Speech is top notch, and it’s definitely recommended.
Score: 8.75/10 (Really Good)