“The King’s Speech” Movie Review

     “The King’s Speech” is not a coming out party for its star Colin Firth, as he has done fine work before, but what we have here is what clearly should be 2010’s best actor performance and a true contender for Best Picture. Director Tom Hooper has put together an extraordinary supporting cast and has made a very funny and entertaining period drama that is pretty close to being a mainstream hit, a monumental achievement for this genre.

     The story centers around King George VI in the late 1930s as England is about declare war on Germany.  As we all know from simply living our lives, leaders are important people.  No matter what kind of stature you have, you likely got there because you were inspired at some point by someone you looked up to.  The royal monarchy in England traditionally is just that.  The royal family in which an entire empire looks up to and expects to be lead by, especially in a time of war.  Imagine then, if you are the King of England and because of a speech impediment, you are fearful of speaking publicly!  The opening scene in the film has Bertie (Colin Firth) addressing a large crowd as the Duke of York and shows us the horror in his eyes and those close to him as he is nearly silent at the microphone, starring into the audience only able to get out a few gulps and chirps.  With an ascension to the throne likely, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) knows something has to be done about this.

     Elizabeth enlists the help of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist whom she hopes can correct her husband’s problem.  It is these scenes in the film which are the very best.  The dialogue between Firth and Rush is hilarious mostly because of how long it takes for their friendship to develop.  Initially, Bertie is too high and mighty to even have contact with let alone be treated by such a lowly man.  Lionel asks Bertie what he would like him to call him and he replies “your Royal Highness.”  Of course Lionel insists if the therapy is going to be successful, they must be friends and therefore tells him he will address him as Bertie, a name only his family calls him.

     As war with Germany strikes near, many things begin to go on within the royal family.    His brother, Edward (Guy Pierce), is next to the throne after the death of their father, King George V, but he is in love with a woman who has already been married twice before and is therefore unable to become King.  It is made clear that due to Bertie’s speech issues, he is not considered the favorite to be King.  This puts an incredible amount of pressure on Bertie, causing his temper to flare at times as well as minimal improvement to his speech.  Bertie and Lionel go through all sorts of on again and off again therapy sessions in a attempt to fix his problem, but to no avail.  As I was watching this film, there were times I wanted to yell at the screen and tell Bertie to just spit it out! 

     Firth clearly nails this character and after we get by the royal arrogance in the beginning of the film, you really start to root for him.  You know how high the stakes are.  You know England needs a leader they can believe in and you know from history they are the good guys against the evil of Hitler’s Germany.  In the final sequence of the film, as King, Bertie must go on the air and deliver a crucial speech to the entire British Empire.  As is stated in the film, 25% of the worlds population at the time falls under British rule, so he knows how many people are listening and depending on him.  With all that the audience has been through to this point (you practically feel as though your right there with him in therapy), this scene is perhaps the most important.  The way it is staged, you’d think Firth was “Dead Man Walking” as he walks to the room where he will go on air.  He passes by numerous family members, tech crew, and supporters, all of whom have no confidence in his ability to make this speech, but have an equal amount of emotion invested to hope he does.  Like a conductor, Lionel literally guides King George VI through each word and passage and it is delivered with all of the power and passion one would expect from a King.  It is truly one of the great cinematic scenes of 2010.

     The performances in this film are all great across the board.  Geoffrey Rush should give Christian Bale a run for his money in the Best Supporting Actor category come Oscar time, but this film belongs to Colin Firth who I believe will win Best Actor.  The performance brings out various emotional responses from the audience and paints a picture of a man who feels the pressure of a whole world on his shoulders.  He knows he has what it takes to lead, but he has this one obstacle standing in his way.  Fortunately, he met the right person at the right time to give him a boost. GRADE: A