Let’s be honest – you’re just now starting to listen to the Oscar buzz, right? Curious about those movies that are getting the accolades that you haven’t had time to see? Fear not, gentle reader, I am here to guide you through the Academy Awards hoopla in one piece. If that band of characters thinks it’s a must-see movie, then you know I’ll be making every attempt to see it as well. So let’s get talking about this movie I saw several weeks ago, and have been lax in reviewing.
The King’s Speech
British royalty can be a little confusing – let me try to make this genealogy clear for you. The King in question here is George VI, who was the father of Elizabeth II – the woman we now acknowledge as the Queen of England (and of course Princess Margaret). His wife we came to know as the “Queen Mum.” What you have to remember is that many of the royals took on names different than their own, in order to carry on a certain tradition. George VI was actually born as Albert, the second son of George V. When his father died and his brother shunned the crown for a mistress of Baltimore, it was up to Albert to assume the throne (taking on the name George to honor his father). The one problem? He had a debilitating stutter.
Of course a major part of the role in being a monarch is the many speeches that must be given at ceremonies and the like. In the time of George VI the prominence of radio made addresses “over the wireless” an imperative. What’s a stuttering royal to do? Fortunately he had a wife that wouldn’t give up on the idea of help being out there, and she eventually finds a man named Lionel Logue. Logue was a speech therapist and offered to treat the man who would be king – but on his own terms. Thus begins a relationship that would last a lifetime.
This true story plays out beautifully in Tom Hooper’s vision. We get great insight into the less glamorous parts of being British royalty and the sometimes unreasonable demands placed upon them. The script by David Seidler draws heavily on the papers unearthed by Logue’s grandson, which can be read in the book of the same name. This screenplay crackles with wit, pathos and emotion – I laughed heartily and later was wracked with tears as we heard King George uttering words that have become eternally famous, “The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead…”
Without question the movie rests on the shoulders of Colin Firth (as King George VI) who handles it beautifully. He effortlessly flows between uptight and apoplectic. And his stammer is remarkable – which should go over well at the Oscars, where they love afflicted men. I would say that Firth alone is worth seeing the movie, but then I would be short-changing Geoffrey Rush (as Logue) who delivers his best work since Shine. Rush is quietly hilarious with perfect comic timing, yet we see his desire to make more of his life than it has been up to this point. Also delightful is Helena Bonham Carter (as the Queen Mum), giving a performance that is polar opposite of her outrageous one in the Harry Potter films. Can you believe she was filming this gem and Deathly Hallows simultaneously? Now that’s acting.
In short, this movie is a must-see – the best of 2010 for me. I give it an overwhelming A! When the nominations come out, expect Oscar to shine most favorably on The King’s Speech, which will be in strong contention for the Best Picture prize.
Soon I’ll be getting back to you with some more Oscar bait that I’ve seen on DVD lately – there’s still time to catch up with Netflix, folks!