Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush Star in Confident ‘The King’s Speech’

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Average: 4.9 (10 votes) Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” has been barreling through the awards season with a number of significant nominations, including six from the Chicago Film Critics Association just today. I understand why. The film does nothing wrong. It features confident production values and good performances but never reaches the peak of excellence for this critic. “The King’s Speech” is a good film that’s been inflated by some viewers to great even if it doesn’t quite deserve the throne.

The words I think of in conjunction with “The King’s Speech” are all relatively positive. It’s a nice film. It’s well-made. And its ensemble is flawless. At the same time, it’s nothing that you have not seen before. It’s not very ambitious. And it’s surprisingly cold — not the kind of film that sticks in the memory, especially in a season with so many strong contenders for your favorite films of 2010. The film is comparable to a nicely-grilled piece of chicken. It’s good and there’s nothing notably wrong with it but you’ve tasted it before and won’t truly cherish the meal as time goes by.

The King's Speech
The King’s Speech
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

The best thing about “The King’s Speech” is the likely Oscar-winning performance by Colin Firth, who stars as Prince Albert, Duke of York, the eventual King George VI, a man we meet when he’s still Prince (to Michael Gambon’s King) and who assumes that the royal throne will be occupied by his brother (Guy Pearce). Despite being a few seats from his reign, ‘Bertie’ still maintains an important enough role in royal society that his stuttering has made him something of a joke. He’s seen a number of doctors to try to cure his speech impediment but the lifelong malady continues to rule his existence.

Prince Albert’s wife Elizabeth (a wonderfully understated Helena Bonham-Carter) finds an aspiring actor who also happens to be an eccentric speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and the doctor and the future King begin an unusual relationship. Lionel is undettered by Albert’s royal title and refuses to coddle his sometimes-immature behavior. He confronts Bertie and teaches him to stand up for himself and speak.

It’s obviously a nice story. And Firth, Rush, and Carter (along with Pearce, Gambon, Derek Jacobi, and Timothy Spall in smaller roles) all deliver nice performances in it. In particular, Firth sells the complexities of what it must have been like to be a man forced by lineage into a position of power who never really felt comfortable being there. As the war approaches and it becomes clearer that the country is going to need a confident speaker to guide them through some dark times, the burden of the responsibility both weighs on Albert and pulls him up to do what needs to be done. Firth sells these complex scenes perfectly. Rush and Carter are nice balances but the film belongs to Firth.

The King's Speech
The King’s Speech
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

Perhaps it’s because we’ve come through a year with such remarkably ambitious films as David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” and Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” that I’m somewhat non-plussed by elements of “The King’s Speech” but Hooper’s film simply isn’t creative or original enough to stand as one of my best of the year. Most of us have read books that we enjoyed but we put down and never thought about again. “The King’s Speech” is the equivalent.

“The King’s Speech,” still a likely multiple Oscar nominee despite a bit of air being leaked out of its campaign by the Fincher juggernaut, is absolutely worth seeing, particularly for the performances. And it’s somewhat rare to see a movie that does nothing notably wrong, but merely doing nothing wrong is not the same thing as doing something great. We should demand more from the movies that have been knighted as the most artistically important of the year.

‘The King’s Speech’ stars Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, and Derek Jacobi. It was written by David Seidler and directed by Tom Hooper. It opens in Chicago on December 17th, 2010. It is rated R and runs 118 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Bill C's picture

The King's Speech

As with many English films, The King’s Speech mostly succeeds at understatement, but fails in this area twice: (1) We truly don’t see Bertie’s inner strength enough; corroboration of the deathbed quote of his father George V is hardly shown; (2) Was Bertie moved to some degree to oratory success by his grave anxiety over the Nazis? Probably, but this film stopped short in this important area. I enjoyed the film, but I agree with Tallerico’s review. Go see it. But it’s a “B+,” certainly not an “A.”

Jedediah's picture

OK for us, but

I took my 80 year old mother to a screening. She’s been to a movie theatre probably twice in the last 20 years. Her peer group was easily in the majority at this film and she was delighted with it. She remarked that there simply aren’t very many movies made anymore that appeal to her. Nor, I might add, to the over 50 crowd in general. Much of the audience, old and young, applauded at the end of the picture. It’s rare for me mum to go to the cinema, rarer yet to sit in a sold-out theatre in which patrons applaud at the end. Regular movie viewers may be gilded and cynical especially when it comes to as rare and small a bloom as this in what we view as a large field of flowers. But for many, modern entertainment is a vast wasteland in which gem’s such as this catch the eye and beg for attention.

edomeara's picture

Kentucky Film Council....

Nice”? “Grilled chicken”? Unlike most e-number crammed, artificially sweetened, Hollywood gutbusters, The Kings Speech is well seasoned, superbly balanced and leaves a great taste in your mouth. You can keep your fastfood. This film is gourmet through and through. Quality.

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