At last, I wrap up the 2010 Best Picture Oscar nominees with this little doozy – also up for Oscars in the categories of Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Actress (Helena Bonham Carter), and Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush) – here is The King’s Speech.
Basic Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: The film chronicles the life of King George VI (played by Colin Firth), starting with his speech at the Empire Exhibition in 1918, and ending at his famous radio broadcast at the beginning of World War II in 1939, and, along the way, focusing on the king’s well-known speech impediment – his stutter – that prevents him from being able to perform many public appearances without risking embarrassing situations. As a result, his wife, Queen Elizabeth (played by Helena Bonham Carter) seeks out a speech therapist in a desperate attempt to finally help “Bertie” (as the king is known to family and friends) overcome his stutter. When Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush) offers his services, the king not only finds a speech therapist, but a friend as well.
The Pros: The film is, literally, built on the back of Colin Firth’s performance; without it, the film just sinks into a sea of mediocrity. Firth portrays the famed war king not as this powerful leader without a single flaw – but as quite the opposite – as a mere mortal with quite a peculiar handicap that isn’t befitting of someone in his line of work. In fact, that’s actually made reference to in the film – in one of the initial scenes when the Queen is recruiting Lionel Logue, she is describing what line of work her husband is in (they are trying to keep their true identities under wraps at this point, so they’re going by the name of “Johnson”), and the Queen simply says that he is in the business of “public speaking,” to which Logue simply replies, “perhaps your husband should consider another line of work.”
Firth immediately makes himself the sympathetic hero – the one that the audience is constantly rooting for throughout the film, and he does it so well that you don’t even notice that every time he stutters on-screen, it’s actually pretty funny. Not to say that it’s okay to make fun of people with speech impediments, but an actor of lesser skill would not have been able to capture the audiences emotions and sympathy the way that Firth does, and when that happens, you’re just left to sit there and notice how funny the actor on-screen looks trying to pretend that he has a stuttering problem.
Finally, I have to give major props to Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush for their performances. While none of them were on the level of Colin Firth’s, that’s definitely not to say that their performances were bad; on the contrary, some will argue that all both of these actors (along with Firth) are walking away with Oscars this Sunday. While Carter, in my opinion, didn’t necessarily have the screen presence of, say, Melissa Leo in The Fighter, she certainly was the perfect complement to Firth, with her “cute as a button” demeanor (in great contrast to her role as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films) and her witty personality, she and Firth had great chemistry together.
On the other hand, Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue almost made speech therapy fun. He just exuded such charisma on-screen that it just gave the film a happy, cheery atmosphere as a result. He gave off a “thespian” sort of vibe (he was, after all, playing a speech therapist/struggling actor), something out of Charles Dickens novel. I think his best scene, though, was when he was teaching the king some tongue twisters as a speech exercise – I was so caught up in the moment that I ended up trying to keep up with Logue as he was saying the tongue twister – something like this,
“I’m a thistle sifter. I have a sift of sifted thistles and unsifted thistles, because I am a thistle sifter.”
Trying saying that 5 times in a row…
The Cons: Back in my senior year of college, I took a course for my senior seminar entitled “Film & History.” The very first reading we had to do for the semester had to do with the depiction of “historical films,” with the author arguing that movies based on historical events in contemporary times have less to do with portraying things as they ACTUALLY happened and more to do with telling a good story; the author ends by asking his readers whether or not a medium (or a balance of sorts) between rock-solid fact and “dramatic license” can truly exist in these historical films.
With me being the “history nut” that I am (I DO HAVE a bachelor’s degree in History, after all), The King’s Speech immediately set off alarms in my head as a film that used “dramatic license” for the purpose of telling a story. If you had been sitting with me in the theater, you would have heard me point out – over and over – to the point where you would’ve wanted to punch me in the face, “GEORGE VI AND CHURCHILL WEREN’T FRIENDS! THEY HATED EACH OTHER! WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!?” Hmm…looking back on it, I probably would want to punch myself in the face as well…
But yeah, the point is, The King’s Speech got A FEW things wrong that are in the history books – and me, being the guy with the History degree, was able to catch it immediately, and, as a result, it led me to not enjoy the film as I probably should’ve. However, this whole experience with The King’s Speech has inspired me to do some research as to whether or not staying faithful to the history books is the superior alternative to “dramatic license” when it comes to these types films. Because don’t get me wrong – this is still a good movie, and, in a way, I can understand why they changed some of the factual details around (like, for example, the fact that King George VI actually tried to NEGOTIATE with HITLER instead of fight him, making him look like the biggest pussy in the world). But the History major inside of me feels that, when you tackle subjects based on historical fact, you need to present them AS THEY HAPPENED – we all get enough bullshit today from the media and politicians as it is – we don’t need Hollywood messing with historical fact. But who knows – my opinion could change completely once I finish my research. It will most definitely be on a future edition of The Epitome of Randomness, so look for that bad boy, well, in the future…
Conclusion: If you are into “historical films” (like I am), definitely check out The King’s Speech. With many “Oscar pundits” dubbing this film as a front-runner to take Best Picture, this is unquestionably a film that deserves the attention of anyone who calls themselves “movie buffs.” Firth, Carter, and Rush are a phenomenal acting triple threat, with Firth practically stealing the show with his sympathetic but likeable King George VI. History buffs, be forewarned – if you get easily pissed off when films get historical facts wrong, this is a film you should probably either stay away from, or watch under a heavily sedated state. Do I think this will take the Best Picture Oscar? Hmm…no comment for now, although I’m leaning towards yes…but I will have my pick and full analysis in my Oscar Preview Edition of The Epitome of Randomness this Saturday. Recommended for Adults and Mature Teens.
FINAL SCORE: **** ½ (4.5/5)
And that’ll do it. As always, any questions, comments, or feedback in general, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply leave a comment in the comments section below.
And that wraps up all the Best Picture nominees. If you happened to miss any of them, simply click on my name at the top of the article “SportsGuy515” and look through my archive to find the review of your choice. I will also be linking to all of my reviews inside of my Oscar Preview Edition of The Epitome of Randomness.
Coming up next, I start my series of Oscar films that are only nominated in the acting categories – and this first film is one of my favorites of the four I will be reviewing – Blue Valentine.
Until next time, I’m out!
Review – The King’s Speech 
Cinephile extraordinaire, a budding filmmaker, and host of Forced Perspective. A resident of NY/NJ, he spends most of his time looking for new movies to watch and learning the craft of filmmaking. You’ve probably also seen him hanging around Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium at some point. If you see him approach your movie theater, be sure to let him in – he’s the guy in the Yankees cap!