Colin Firth didn’t receive the Academy Award for his superb portrayal of a suicidal gay professor in Tom Ford’s visually sublime character study “A Single Man,” but he stands a great chance to finally capture the gold for his equally substantive work as Britain’s stammering King George VI in the striking, crowd-pleasing dramatic comedy “The King’s Speech.”
With calculated subtlety and endearing sensibility, Firth dynamically gives his all as the frustrated George, nicknamed Bertie in close circles, who reluctantly became monarch after his lovestruck older brother King Edward VIII (a dashing, magnetic Guy Pearce) abdicated the throne in 1936. In order to properly lead the nation and overcome his debilitating stutter, a hindrance since he was 4 years old, Bertie, still coping with familial baggage from his childhood, turns to amiable yet stern Australian speech therapist and thespian Lionel Logue (a truly splendid Geoffrey Rush in one of his most engaging and expressive performances). Lionel’s unconventional teaching methods and strict demands (the private sessions particularly occur at his quaint office rather than Buckingham Palace) provides an entertaining tug-of-war with Bertie resulting in an unexpected friendship that evolves to nearly tear-jerking proportions at the film’s emotional climax: the titular address Bertie delivers to his countrymen as World War II looms.
Firth and Rush are simply outstanding, delivering multifaceted portrayals that take David Seidler’s formulaic yet engrossing screenplay to deep realms of poignancy. Whenever they share the screen and their infectious chemistry leaps forth, electricity is in the air. Guided with sophistication and warmth by director Tom Hooper (who helmed HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries “John Adams”), Firth’s sharp complexity and believably fearful reticence effortlessly balances Rush’s calm authority and genuine sincerity, an appealing attribute wonderfully revealed in scenes featuring the Logue household.
“The King’s Speech” succeeds as a feel-good showcase of triumph in the face of adversity.
In addition to Pearce, terrific supporting turns are provided by an exceptionally understated Helena Bonham Carter as Bertie’s loving, supportive wife Elizabeth, who brought Bertie and Lionel together, Michael Gambon as Bertie’s imposing father King George V, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, Jennifer Ehle as Lionel’s dutiful wife Myrtle, Claire Boom as Queen Mary, the adorable Freya Wilson as Princess Elizabeth, and Derek Jacobi (used far better here than in Clint Eastwood’s recent flop “Hereafter”) as the stringent Archbishop of Canterbury.
A definite contender for a slew of Oscar nominations next month including Best Picture and beautifully accented by composer Alexandre Desplat’s lilting score, “The King’s Speech” succeeds as a feel-good showcase of triumph in the face of adversity. It is simply one of the best films of 2010.
“The King’s Speech” begins its Dayton engagement Saturday, December 25 at the Neon Movies, Rave Cinema at The Greene, and Regal Cinema. Preview and trailer can be seen here.