Directed by: Tom Hooper
Release date: 2010
Length: 118 minutes
First, a confession: I am not really a “drama” fan. I tend to get bored about halfway through and end up either checking my watch compulsively or just waiting for something thrilling to happen, usually in vain.
I went to see this film expecting perhaps not a high level of boredom, considering the all-star cast, but at least a yawn here or there. Well, once again, the wonderful art of cinema has exercised its magic on me. The King's Speech, nominated for Best Picture in the upcoming Academy Award contest, is fitting competition for the likes of Black Swan and The Social Network and definitely deserves a healthy share of the limelight. It is an excellent feature film and one of my favorites of 2010.
The movie is based on true historical events spread across several years. It recounts the tale of King George VI (Colin Firth), who finds himself having to speak publicly on frequent occasions, attempting to overcome a severe nervous stammer with the help of a peculiar speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), and the loving support of his wife, Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter).
To the movie-goer who appreciates exemplary acting, this is a must-see. Not a role is miscast. Though I can’t mention everyone, each artist makes you feel like you're sitting in Lionel's living room for therapy right along with the King. Even side characters with limited screen time, such as King George V, are portrayed by greats like Michael Gambon.
Firth, in particular, is well-deserving of his Golden Globe for best actor and his Oscar nomination as well. The film’s greatest dramatic moments come from his simple, dry delivery of light jokes combined with his own irritation at not being able to speak his mind due to the stammer. In my early formative years, I had something of a mild speech impediment myself, so I can speak to the authenticity that Firth brings to this aspect of his character.
This leads me to the main draw of the film, which is its ability to establish a personal connection between the average audience member and a man to whom thousands were expected to bow. Much of the movie takes place in Lionel’s small living room/office and involves the odd exchanges between the King and Lionel as the latter tries to purge the former of his speech difficulties.
There’s plenty of unexpected humor that pops up, from the sheer awkwardness of the King’s responses to the highly unorthodox methods employed to improve his speaking skills, such as singing his lines or cursing silently during pauses to keep the flow in his mind moving. The movie is in no hurry during these sections, and it might have been in danger of being a bit boring if it weren’t for those aforementioned spectacular performances given by all parties. A simple conversation is made fascinating here, and so much about the character can be given through a facial expression or a brief gesture.
My only complaint – but it keeps the film from being virtually perfect – is the occasional lapses into melodrama. The vast majority of the picture consists of a carefully crafted balance of drama and dry humor, but every now and then the flow is interrupted by some overly dramatic writing. In particular, I found myself dangerously close to rolling my eyes during a scene in which the King tells Lionel some tragic stories from his childhood. Obviously, this information is important to the story, but I feel it could have been handled more subtly.
In the scheme of things, though, these scenes are very few and far between and barely detract from my impressions of this fantastic feature film. It’s a beautiful period piece and should hold anyone’s interest, from the attention-grabbing opening to the powerful, tear-jerking closing scenes. I'd give it a 9 out of 10.
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