While I walked out of True Grit saying, “Jeff Bridges deserves the Oscar,” and I even made a bet with my brother to that effect, I must say that I was wrong. While Jeff Bridges absolutely deserves an Oscar for his performance, Colin Firth will win. Without a doubt. Finally.
The King’s Speech is a wonderful film documenting the transitional period from the reign of King George V (Michael Gambon) to King George VI (Colin Firth). I do not know how many Americans know about this time period between World Wars, but upon the death King George V, the crown passed to Edward VIII (Guy Pearce). Because of his determination to wed a divorced (and rumored to be a rather loose) woman, the American Mrs. Wallace Simpson, Edward abdicated the throne not a full year after his coronation, leaving the duty to his younger brother Albert Frederick Arthur George on December 11, 1936.
There is a bit of a problem, however. Due to the invention of radio, the royal family now was expected to do more than “look royal” for photographs and public appearances. They needed to become the face of their nation. George V often gave radio addresses, and encouraged his sons to do likewise. The Prince of Wales stepped up to the task, while the Albert Duke of York has a problem—a debilitating stammer. This impediment is embarrassing, and he sees many therapists about it, but to no avail. His wife Elizabeth, solidly played by Helena Bonham Carter, is determined to help her husband overcome his problem. In a desperate effort, she seeks out the help of Lionel Logue (another brilliant performance by Geoffrey Rush), an unorthodox speech therapist, who promises to help the struggling Duke of York.
They make progress, he makes some small statements, but success seems a long way off. Then his brother abdicates the throne, cementing the need for the newly named George V to become more public than his position as the second son ever had before. Not only must be speak, albeit briefly, at his coronation, but as Hitler’s machinations throughout Europe become more pronounces and unavoidable and England declares war, the King must speak to reassure his people live on the radio.
While the subject of the film is dear to me as an admitted Anglophile and teacher of Rhetoric, Colin Firth’s performance is simply stunning. His diction is perfectly flawed, and he demonstrates a stark contrast from explosively frustrated to witty. He is torn, as he never wanted the job, and seemed not qualified to take the crown, safe in his position as third in line of succession. He is inspiring to his family, and proves to demonstrate resilience to his nation.
Geoffrey Rush is also exceptional. He is humorous, yet stern when he needs to be, calling Albert “Bertie” even after he has become King, so that they can be comfortable together. He is elastic in his expression, both physical and vocal.
Helena Bonham Carter excels in her subtle dramatic role. She just loves her husband, and will stand by him, stalwart. It’s an odd contrast, so recently seeing her as the dementedly insane Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter, and now as a reserved, tender character.
This was a treat of a film, heart-wrenching at times, funny at others, and ultimately moving.
See this movie.
5 out of 5 stars