THE KING’S SPEECH :: Oscar Ritual 2011
January 20, 2011 — AMC Stonebriar, Frisco, Texas
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush), Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter), Directing (Tom Hooper), Original Screenplay, Original Score, Costume Design, Cinematography, and 3 technical categories
The title of the film The King’s Speech is a play on words referring to King George VI‘s public speaking requirements and the fact that he was afflicted with such fear that he spoke with a profound stutter since childhood. The movie centers around the relationship of King George (known as Bertie throughout the movie) with a therapist who teaches him to speak without the impediment and prepares him to take his country’s throne after his brother, King Edward VIII, chooses to abdicate in order to marry his American lover, Mrs. Wallis Simpson. It’s a simple story, really, but it is a grand film. And that is entirely due to the lead trio of actors around whom the tale is centered.
Colin Firth plays Bertie, and his performance is as riveting and as remarkable as the awards community has declared it to be. By speaking in Bertie’s halting cadence, his demeanor is completely transformed. In most roles Firth comes across as a sturdy figure, someone who looms above others, but as the younger royal Bertie he seems somewhat frail and wiry. It’s not due to his size but rather to the lack of confidence he presents in the character. That he also adheres to the stoic attitude of British royalty, which holds emotion in check and presents only a proper image to those around him, simply adds to the feeling of heartache as you watch this man struggle so mightily with something that comes easy to most everyone else. I suspect that Firth will win the Oscar this year, and it is my opinion that it is absolutely deserved.
Supporting Firth is Geoffrey Rush, playing Bertie’s therapist who also becomes his great friend, and Helena Bonham Carter as his wife Elizabeth, known to us now as the Queen Mum. Both are brilliant in their portrayals of these historical figures, and both are equally deserving of acclaim and awards. I was mesmerized by Bonham Carter simply because she was so refined and so subtle in her performance, reminding me once again how truly gifted she is and how easily we forget what kind of talent it takes for one woman to portray British aristocrats, the Red Queen, and Mrs. Lovett too. In fact, she is so subtle as Elizabeth that what she brings to the role is easily overlooked in the face of Firth and Rush. But I found her to be the true rock of the story, just as she was Bertie’s rock in life.
The King’s Speech is nothing short of a feel-good film. It is touching and moving and fascinating for its historical aspects, but also has great humor and probably the best use of profanity I’ve ever heard in a film. There is simply no way to be offended at how the language gets included in the movie, and that itself is a pretty extraordinary thing for me. I learned so much about dealings of the monarchy that I had never known before, and my opinions of several people have drastically changed, not the least of which is Bertie’s brother David (who came to be known as King Edward). I had always romanticized the story of his abdication, that he had chosen love over expectations of duty, but the portrayal of that man by Guy Pearce (who is almost unrecognizable in the role) left me feeling a bit of contempt for him. The film shows David to be selfish and foolish and somewhat mean, and it depicts Mrs. Simpson in an even more negative light. Bits of history being told in such a different manner throughout the film have truly made me question much of what I knew before, and I was left to wonder about the rest of the story. Which is always good for a movie to do. Though The King’s Speech is not the best film of 2010, it certainly contains some of the greatest performances. And it is a movie that can be enjoyed again and again for no other reason than the sheer fun of it.
image from Rotten Tomatoes, linked to source