The King’s Speech is Old Hollywood film making at its very best. Highlighted by an insightful, often hilarious, and poignantly human screenplay by David Seidler, sensitive and masterful direction by Tom Hooper (who also directed John Adams, the brilliant HBO miniseries), a lovely performance from Helena Bonham Carter, career-defining and almost certain Oscar-winning performances from Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, and a sense of the nobility, humor, and basic decency of humanity that illuminates every frame of film, The King’s Speech is one of my favorite movies of 2010. The King’s Speech made me feel so grateful to just be a human being. Wow—what a movie!
The film, which opens Christmas Day in most cities, tells the true story of The Duke of York (Firth) who has such a debilitating stammer that he has a difficult time even speaking to his wife (Bonham-Carter) and family . Nevertheless, he is forced by his position as a potential heir to his father King George V (Harry Potter‘s Michael Gambon) to speak in public, with predictably humiliating results. His loving wife (who would become Queen Elizabeth) sees the Duke struggle with a series of speech therapists, none of whom help him at all. Taking the initiative herself, she finds a highly eccentric yet dedicated speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Rush) who agrees to try to help the Duke, even though his new patient’s real identity is unknown to him until treatment begins.
The focus of the film is the relationship between the Duke and Logue and it is brilliant, funny, warm, dramatic, and utterly compelling. Logue’s methods are, to say the least, unconventional. When the Duke gets frustrated, Logue asks the Duke if he knows any jokes, to which the Duke dryly replies “Timing isn’t my strong suit.”Logue then demands that the Duke sing what he is trying to say, preferably to the tune of “Swanee”, a recurring refrain throughout the film that takes on special significance when the Duke actually does ascend to the throne and leads England through World War 2.
The King’s Speech is a complete triumph from start to finish.
Colin Firth is so transcendently brilliant that the specter of anyone else winning next year’s Best Actor Oscar is almost inconceivable. Some years ago, Mr. Firth was the subject of much criticism when he declared that he so wanted to do more dramas that he would forsake doing any more of the romantic comedies (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love, Actually, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Mamma Mia, etc.) that had brought him such success. With The King’s Speech, Mr. Firth has certainly proved his point. (So maybe now he can do both!)
As Logue, Geoffrey Rush gives one of the great supporting performances in recent memory. Rush’s wit, love, support, and fierce loyalty and determination to help the Duke brings to mind Anne Bancroft‘s iconic and Oscar-winning performance as Annie Sullivan who was just as determined to reach her pupil Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. Rush seems a more than deserving cinch to at least receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work here. Ms. Bonham-Carter is also wonderful and loving in a smaller but luminous role as the Duke’s wife and fiercest protector.
Special kudos also go to Mr. Seidler’s magnificent script and Mr. Hooper’s masterful direction. Both deserve Oscar consideration as well.
The King’s Speech is Old Hollywood movie making at its best and an inspiring reminder to me of why we are Bringing Back The Old Hollywood. Indeed, it’s the kind of film that one can imagine David O. Selznick producing and Frank Capra directing back in the 1940s. The story of the film is compelling and human, the humor is wonderful and plentiful, and the performances are beyond magnificent.
Most importantly, the film showcases who we can be as human beings when we operate at our very best. The Duke’s perseverance and courage, Logue’s patience and empathy, and Elizabeth’s belief, love, and loyalty illuminate some of the most magical qualities of our humanity.
See The King’s Speech soon and bring your friends and family. I promise that you’ll feel better about being human when the film is finished. In these troubled times, what a welcome holiday gift that is.