Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: December 24, 2010
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Genre: Biography, Drama
Stars: 4 out of 5
Director Tom Hooper recently found his name tossed about during award season for his film “Les Misérables,” but he is no stranger to awards. He previously won an Oscar for directing “The King’s Speech,” which is just as strong today as it was when it first landed in theaters.
Released in 2010, “The King’s Speech” tells the story of King George VI (Colin Firth, “Pride and Prejudice”) and the difficulties that he faced running the country while dealing with a stutter. When he meets Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush, “Shine”), a speech therapist, he discovers that he can conquer his fears. The film takes place in 1936, following the King as he worries about his country and the relationship that he shares with his wife, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter, “Alice in Wonderland”).
The film takes place not long after the two marry and discover that they need to change their public personas. The Duchess of York suddenly needs to project a calm and cool side and show the country that she is a true lady, while King George needs to show his confident side. Every time that he faces his constituents, he seems lost, which is where Logue steps in to help. The relationship between Logue and George helps the King realize that he can become the man his country wants him to be but only with a little help.
Firth is the type of actor who can bounce effortlessly between comedy and drama, which aids him well in “The King’s Speech.” In the opening scenes, he clearly shows the struggles that his character faces on a daily basis. With his hat tipped over his face, he manages to project his unease without saying a single word. When he finally does speak, he uses a slight stammer that quickly increases and helps viewers understand his problems. It’s not surprising that Firth swept the award shows and gained an Oscar for his work on this film.
Helena Bonham Carter often plays quirky and unusual characters, but she got her start playing straight women in dramatic films. In “The King’s Speech,” she shows that she isn’t just a one-trick pony. Though the actress recently appeared in a string of Tim Burton films, here, she shows that she has what it takes to win awards. Bonham Carter portrays the Duchess of York, the woman who would one day receive the title of Queen Elizabeth, and she does it with such gusto that she picked up an Academy Award nomination. She and Firth share the type of chemistry rarely seen in film. The two have an arranged marriage, and while they may not love each other, they do have respect and admiration for each other. It’s easy to see why she would want to get her husband the help that he needs.
The only thing better than the chemistry that Firth shares with Bonham Carter is the chemistry that he shares with Rush. Rush adds a touch of whimsy to the role of Logue, showing him as a man who isn’t willing to sacrifice fun while getting the job done. Though he comes to England to help the King, he knows that he needs to show him the lighter side of life. The scenes where the two talk about the King’s experiences as a child are lighthearted and fun, which is exactly what the film needs. Those scenes break up the drudgery of the earlier moments and let Firth showcase his comedic side.
“The King’s Speech” also makes strong use of its supporting cast, most notable Guy Pearce (“Momento”). Pearce portrays Edward, a man more concerned with his own relationship with Wallace Simpson than he is with anything going on around him. The only time that he does pay attention is when he gets the chance to tease the King for his stutter. Those few scenes show that the royal family is just like any other family.
Michael Gambon (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”) also makes an appearance as George V. He does a phenomenal job of portraying a man who wishes that his son would gain some confidence and rule the country like he did. His later appearances show the character as a shell of his former self, dealing with the effects of dementia, and those scenes highlight Gambon’s range as an actor.
It’s not surprising that “The King’s Speech” was one of the most nominated films the year it came out in theaters. Hooper does an excellent job of directing a talented cast, and every actor in the film offers a realistic portrayal of the characters they play.