When I think of a film deserving of an Academy Award, I think of a remarkable accomplishment in cinema. Something that is eminently watchable in all aspects, from the individual at top billing to the cinematography, right down to the extras in the background. Perhaps that expectation often leaves me underwhelmed with movies jockeying for Oscar hype from year to year.
In the case of The King’s Speech, director Tom Hooper’s look at the rise of speech-impaired King George VI to the English throne in the 1930s, it’s safe to say there isn’t much to be underwhelmed by. Excellent work by Colin Firth as King George, and perhaps even better work by Geoffrey Rush in his role as speech therapist Lionel Logue, carry the film to great heights.
The viewer enters the fracas of George’s life in the mid-1920s when his father, King George V, has requested he make a public speech. Needless to say, the verbally afflicted George VI, still going by his given name of Albert Frederick Arthur George Windsor, doesn’t do so well with the task.
Concerned with her husband’s well-being and understanding the importance that public speaking holds for a man in his position, Albert’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks out the help of Logue, played admirably by Rush. After some initial rockiness between the affable Logue and the frustrated Albert, the results begin to reveal themselves and the two begin to grow closer.
With the requisite conflicts along the way, some family issues eventually lead to Albert taking the throne as King George VI. With Logue at his side, the king is forced into action as a wartime orator once Hitler and the Germans push his nation to no other option. The film climaxes with a stirring scene between George and Logue that certainly lives up to the billing promised at the outset.
Overall The King’s Speech is a solid film made great by its performances. While less-is-more performances from Carter and Guy Pierce pepper the reel, it’s truly the work of both Firth and Rush that is captivating. As individuals they perform well, but their scenes together don’t feel acted – they feel authentic, as though they truly are two men from different backgrounds who are forging a friendship under incredible duress.
Oftentimes it happens that this time of year is the graveyard for films that get more attention and hype than they should because of award buzz. In the case of The King’s Speech, the buzz is warranted if for no other reason than to see Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush duelling in career-defining performances. The film is in theatres now, and deserves your money and attention more than anything else playing at the moment.