Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler
Company: The Weinstein Company / UK Film Council
Runtime: 118 minutes
The King’s Speech is the 83rd winner of the Best Picture Award and one of the many winners in this category that are biopics. One of the the things that gave this film the edge of winning over its biggest competitor The Social Network is the statistical data that only 14% of the Academy membership are below 50 years old. So maybe, not all of them have Facebook accounts, anyway.
The film is about Bertie, Duke of York, and son of King George V, who has problems because of his stutter. Nothing can help him in his problem – not even doctors. Taking the initiative, his wife, the Queen Elizabeth, met with a speech therapist named Lionel Logue, known for his unorthodox approach in treating his patients. At first, Bertie is hesitant, but because he and Elizabeth realized that he can do better if he continues the lessons, he decides to take intense therapies and lessons.
Things have been going on well for them, but the worsening condition of the King puts him into uncertainty when he realizes that his brother David is intending to marry to an American woman who has been divorced twice, a point that is constantly being objected by the country leaders. The King dies, but David still wants to marry his woman. David takes abdication, leaving Bertie with no other choice but to become the king.
This caught him off-guard, for he is doubtful indeed of his leadership skills because of speech impediment, but Lionel gives him the reasons why he could be the king the country expect him to be. His leadership is challenged when the World War II arrives and the nation needs to have great dependency and confidence with the King.
The film is what the others say about it – old-fashioned. But with some sophisticated elements in it and terrific acting all-around, this is some gooood old-fashioned story.
The direction is surprisingly fresh. The material itself is one of those good-old historical accounts of royalties, but the direction takes it to a very accessible and modern style that has the look of the classic approach in this kind of stories but is exemplifying storytelling elements that are definitely new to the audience. There is something that is extremely fascinating on how the movie was done. And that is an achievement in the direction given that the story itself is not that remarkable. Instead, the film made us see how important this event is for a nation with a colourful and great history. And it is even quite wondrous that the direction plays a very big part in the success of the movie, but the direction itself is low-key.
The screenplay is knowingly able to make the material a very accessible one to the audience. It does not try to make a movie disguised as an accurate history book, where every even feels important because of its significance to the world. The screenplay focuses on the impact of the events to the characters as human beings, and not necessarily as royalties. The scenes are filled with heartfelt exchanges of dialogue that are irresistible and easily recallable. The conversations have the wit, humor, and heart that are needed to tell this story.
The cinematography is one fine thing. After my very first watching of this film, I actually felt indifferent with the nomination for this. Not that it’s bad, not that it’s good, but I just cannot say anything about it. Now, I was able to appreciate the risks taken by the cinematography to tell the story with a new point of view. Scenes of Bertie’s discomfort are shown with perfect unease. It feels powerful, but never forced. And how brilliant it is to use a lot of close up shots to create the atmosphere of humanity.
The editing is very subtle, but you know how important it is for the movie to have this kind of editing. It is sharp, but never too obvious, passive, but never forgettable, accomplished, but never showy. There are these brilliant cuts continuously seen in the film that are completely set to perfect timing and harmony.
The music is very much functioning as an emotional anchor that is sparsely heard but effectively conveys the weight of each scene. It is very subtle, very gentle, but each note the piano hits registers not only what we see, but also how the characters’ reactions in various situations.
The art direction and costume design are particularly noteworthy for being capable to bring back a world that is only available now through museums and encyclopedias with such large amount of detail and brilliance.
The acting is simply sumptuous to watch.
Colin firth is beguiling in his virtuoso performance as the struggling Bertie. He has carefully constructed his character with no false note to be seen, and the result is superbly stunning in every sense of the word. He holds the screen with deep integrity and handicapped confidence with such soulful gravitas that he makes every flaw of the character precise but never too calculated. He has immense tenderness and fragility that is quite endearing and heartbreaking. Firth is very humane, and I feel for him.
Geoffrey Rush is wonderfully complex as Lionel. I guess, everyone agrees, this is not the kind of performance that you normally expect from Geoffrey Rush, but forget that, and this is still a wonderful performance from a gifted actor. The emotions are contained, and it feels quite genuine. The way he peels his character’s layers scene by scene by his face without getting one-dimensional is such a treat to watch. Whether it is a feel-good or a sad scene, Rush handles it with moving simplicity.
Helena Bonham Carter is a lush delight as Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Even if her exterior is very much of a kindred nature, she has the spark of burning intelligence of a queen and the approachability of a friend that is quite delicious to watch. She is built with steel and heart, and the emotional sensitivity across under the tough woman is wonderfully evident. Dignity, power, and intimacy has never been this heartwarming as Carter’s Queen Mother. Intriguing, meaty, and wonderfully nuanced.
Guy Pearce is honest and quietly impressive as David, Bertie’s brother, inhibits his character so effortlessly, and bringing the royal rebellion on the table with edginess and unexpected power. Jennifer Ehle is surprisingly sublime as Lionel’s wife, with grace and brains so intelligently rooted in her line readings.
This is not a film that breaks grounds in filmmaking, or represents a generation of youth, or gives us anything entirely new, but it refreshes us with classic filmmaking and uses each element of filmmaking, gives them big innovations, and presents to us a story of hope in a very fashionable, slick, compelling, and breathtaking way.
For this, the movie gets:
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