Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick Reviews The King’s Speech
Since it’s debut at the Telluride Film Festival back in September, The King’s Speech has been steadily racking up award nominations as well as several wins, including: The Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture and The Golden Globe for Best Actor (Colin Firth).
There’s no doubt that The King’s Speech – a historical drama about King George VI’s pre-World War II rise to power – is the type of film award shows love to celebrate. However, despite being a competent and beautiful film, is director Tom Hooper’s movie too stuffy to provide mainstream moviegoers with a satisfying trip to the box office?
Fortunately, the answer is no. Despite critical acclaim, some Academy Award-nominated historical dramas never get a wide release – in large part due to their limited appeal to the greater movie-going population. The King’s Speech, however, is an intelligent film with beautiful direction by Hooper, that manages to offer a charm and sense of humor that even audiences at the megaplex will enjoy (not just the local independent theater).
If you’re still unfamiliar with the story of King George VI, or subsequently The King’s Speech, here’s the official synopsis:
After the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually form an unbreakable bond. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle.
Based on the true story of King George VI, THE KING’S SPEECH follows the Royal Monarch’s quest to find his voice.
As mentioned in the summary, the entire movie revolves around the importance of voice. With the recent invention of the wireless radio, as well as the growing threat of Nazi Germany, King George VI is forced into a unique moment in history – where a King’s radio booth is suddenly more important than his throne.
Despite being the type of role typically labeled as “Oscar-bait,” Colin Firth’s performance as the stammering Prince Albert (George VI) is an honest portrayal that never oversteps the boundary between interpretation and caricature. While Firth’s stammering is certainly painful to listen to, it’s clear this is Hooper’s desired effect – and the director balances Albert’s stammers, as well as his succeeding frustration and anger, with a charming performance by Geoffrey Rush as the Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue.
Like many dramas that revolve around a “burgeoning friendship” dynamic, many of the best moments in The King’s Speech are centered around the dynamic between the two would-be friends as Logue attempts to draw the stubborn Prince Albert down from his high horse, in order to truly address the root of the problem (Albert’s fear of being King). In the process, the audience is treated to a number of great moments: some humorous, some painful, and others that are genuinely inspiring.
That said, at times a few of these moments can follow the three act historical drama a bit too closely – resulting in several predictable character arcs. Without giving anything away, the end of the first and second acts are each punctuated with some misunderstanding or regression that tears at Lionel and Albert’s friendship. Surely the pair had their ups and downs in real life, and the framework doesn’t ruin the film or even take much away from the viewer’s enjoyment, but, because of where they’re placed, these moments end up coming across as the contrived movements of the plot, instead of the organic transition of the characters.
It’s a fine line, and certainly won’t bother most moviegoers, but in these moments it was easy to see the screenplay for The King’s Speech shining through a bit too clearly on the silver screen.
However, despite the over-obvious movie structure that, on occasion, gets forced onto the historical events depicted in the film, The King’s Speech is a terrific film with great performances by the cast, as well as an inspiring, not to mention charming, story about a man who not only finds his voice, but finds his place as one of the most important leaders in history.
If you’re still trying to make up your mind, check out the trailer for The King’s Speech below:
Also, if you’re interested in hearing the King’s speech, you can listen to King George VI’s actual September 3rd 1939 address to his people from Buckingham Palace – HERE.
The King’s Speech is currently playing in wide release.
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