Monday, December 3, 2012

The King's Speech (2010) Review

The King’s Speech

On the surface, The King’s Speech appears to be another Oscar-bait movie that gets put out during the winter season to attract the Academy’s attention. It’s British made, the cast is a who’s-who of Britain’s finest actors, and the core story is about the main character overcoming adversity. And the Academy seems to have taken the bait, seeing as how the movie is leading the Oscar race with twelve nominations (compared to True Grit’s ten and The Social Network’s eight). But does the movie really deserve the accolades it has been receiving?

Plot Synopsis: After the death of King George V, his eldest son David is chosen as the successor to the throne. However, his marriage and strong allegiance to an American divorcee soon force him to leave this position, and his brother Albert (nicknamed Bertie) is now in line. The problem is that Bertie has had a stutter for almost his entire life, which doesn’t bode well for when he has to address the people with a speech. In order to improve his speaking, Bertie enlists the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue, and the two soon begin a friendship that will last throughout Bertie’s tenure as king.

The heart of the film, and what gives it the staying power that makes it more than “just another Oscar-bait” movie, is the friendship that occurs between the two protagonists. Colin Firth (Bertie) and Geoffrey Rush (Logue) have remarkable chemistry together, and the two of them grow a mutual understanding of each other despite their class differences (Logue isn’t an official therapist sponsored by the royal family). Firth, currently the frontrunner to win Best Actor and deserving of all the hype, is the particular standout. While he typically plays immensely likable characters, Firth doesn’t shy away from making Bertie less than sympathetic, playing up the fact that he feels “above” Logue when they first meet. And Geoffrey Rush, most well known for playing Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean, goes toe-to-toe with Firth as Logue isn’t afraid to criticize someone as powerful as the king. While Firth is the one getting all the attention for the film, Rush deserves just as much recognition.

While the movie is a drama first and foremost, it is not a dry affair, which many might assume of British movies. There is a surprising amount of humor present, which lightens up the mood at appropriate moments and keeps the audience engaged and entertained even as they are watching a highly privileged man complain about a stutter in his voice. A scene where Logue instructs Bertie to let loose with all his pent up anger is the comical highlight as Bertie unleashes a torrent of curses and insults.

While many of the other Best Picture Oscar nominees each have a “hook” that attracts attention (Inception explores dreams, Social Network shows Facebook’s creation, Black Swan is about a ballerina going crazy, etc.), The King’s Speech contains a much more straightforward plot than the other competitor’s. But that doesn’t make it any less deserving of the acclaim pitched its way. It easily stands strongly amongst the more high profile and popular films of the year, and one that almost everyone can enjoy.


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