The King's Speech won the prestigious Audience Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. While standing in line waiting to see Black Swan in September it was the only film anyone was talking about. Colin Firth, who should have won the Oscar last year for A Single Man, has been cited by many as a clear favourite to win Best Actor this year. I obviously had a lot of expectations for this film. I was not disappointed by The King's Speech as much as I was surprised by how generic and formulaic it is. Even The Queen (2006), which won Helen Mirren an Oscar, was almost too respectful in its portrayal of British royalty. Stephen Frears is a much more accomplished director than Tom Hooper, whose only other directorial credits are 2004's Red Dust and 2009's The Damned United. The King's Speech absolutely hinges on Colin Firth's brilliant performance, but the film also offers two incredible supporting performances. Both Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter offer their finest performances in over a decade. While The King's Speech may be entirely too predictable, it is nonetheless an inspirational film with a powerful performance from Colin Firth.
King George VI (Colin Firth) ascended to the throne after his brother, King Edward VIII (Guy Pierce), abdicated the throne in 1936, following the death of their father father, King George V (Michael Gambon), earlier that year. The king, known to his family as Bertie, suffered from a terrible speech impediment. His wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), arranges for her husband to visit an eccentric speech therapist with an unorthodox practice, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Bertie is uncomfortable speaking in public and produces a terrible stutter. With the advances in technology it has become customary for the king to speak to his people by radio address. Lionel works very closely with Bertie and the two develop a very strong bond and friendship. The two have a very tense confrontation when it becomes apparent that Edward VIII will surrender the throne in order to marry a divorced woman. While Lionel has complete faith that Bertie will become a great king, Bertie doubts his own abilities because of his stammer. Soon after King George VI takes the throne England declares war on Germany, sparking World War II, and the bond between the two men becomes even more important.
The King's Speech is very dramatic, but I think the film thrives in the more lighthearted moments. I quite loved the dynamic between Bertie and his wife Elizabeth as Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter have great chemistry. Colin Firth delivers one of the year's best performances and is absolutely deserving of an Oscar nomination. While the Best Actress this year seems to be the most competitive category in recent years, I would not be surprised to see the Best Actor race come down to Colin Firth and James Franco, for 127 Hours. I saw The King's Speech at 1:00 on a Friday afternoon. The theatre was completely full and I felt terribly out of place, being about 40 years younger than everyone else. The King's Speech will win favour from older viewers who have a stronger connection to the British monarchy but I do not think it is deserving of a Best Picture award. The film has three award-worthy performances but the film itself is a familiar period piece.
My rating: 3 stars out of 4.