The King’s Speech (2010)
If ever there was an example of pure acting winning Oscars practically by default due to lack of competition, it is this week’s selection from here in the core of the earth. Directed by Tom Hooper (Elizabeth I, Red Dust), The King’s Speech is the true story of Britain’s King George VI, a reluctant monarch who was able to overcome overwhelming personal adversity and lead his nation through the brutality of World War II. Colin Firth (Love Actually, Girl with a Pearl Earring) turns in an admittedly brilliant performance portraying the stammering sovereign who is forced onto the throne after his older brother is forced to abdicate after engaging in a forbidden romance with an American divorcée. Britain’s royal family had become a source of national pride for the English, and the primary function for the king was that of a diplomatic leader and figurehead for the dignity of the nation. In the age of radio, it was more crucial than ever for the king to be fluent and presentable in order to provide the leadership and confidence during the nation’s darkest hours. Unfortunately, King George VI was afflicted with a terrible stuttering problem from early in his childhood, and he was unable to compete with the oratory prowess of other world leaders at the time, including Winston Churchill, Adolph Hitler, and Benito Mussolini.
Helena Bonham-Carter (Fight Club, Harry Potter series) plays the renowned Queen Elizabeth, who recognizes the importance of appearance and public opinion to the nation. She attempts to find several professionals to help the beleaguered king overcome his oratory hindrance. Several of the finest doctors in England fail to help correct the king’s speech, until finally, they meet an unlikely Australian-born speech therapist with the most unorthodox methods. Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean series, Shakespeare in Love) provides what was in my opinion the most enjoyable and amusing performance in the film, which is no doubt chocked full of outstanding acting. Rush plays the capricious Lionel Logue, who abandons all of the precedents regarding respect and decorum when dealing with a member of the royal family. Logue insists on calling the king “Bertie”, a nickname reserved only for his wife and immediate family, and a significant point of contention early in the unlikely relationship between two men who would otherwise have never spoke to one another if not for such unusual circumstances. The dialogue between the two characters is really the source of charm and amusement that made the film as popular as it was, as Logue routinely unnerves and irritates the frustrated king in an attempt to root out the source of the king’s speech problems.
What is unique about this film is the strength of the dialogue between the two main characters. Everything else about it is simply adequate. The plot merely provides a platform for the discourse between Bertie and Logue, but isn’t otherwise terribly exciting. The cinematography is fine, but really isn’t anything special. The pacing of the film is average. It moves along, limping between interactions involving the two main characters, where the true drama and appeal resides. Now, it’s important for me to emphasize that there isn’t anything “bad” about this film, but I don’t think it was as good as it has been made out to be. I would attribute this most likely to the lack of other significant films in the Oscar race this season, but this is not to diminish the excellent performances by the actors involved in this piece. Firth does an outstanding job of portraying the frustration and pressure placed on his character, and Rush is simply hilarious at times and masterfully holds the audience’s attention throughout. They are able, through dialogue and performances alone, to make this film enjoyable and stand out from the crowd.
The Bottom Line is this: The King’s Speech is an average movie made great by the noteworthy performances of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The supporting cast does well to provide springboards for the two main characters to shine, but all in all, the plot is not all that terribly fascinating. The film spans 118 minutes, which, like everything else about the piece, is adequate. The audience isn’t separated long enough from the performances of the stars to become bored, so it paces itself well. The plot just isn’t as appealing as I would expect a movie with such acclaim to be, though. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t more competition if this film would have received all of the accolades that it did, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that such accolades were undeserved. This movie is worth your time to rent, but don’t let the glowing reviews fool you. The King’s Speech is a good movie, but it’s not that good.