One of the things about this year’s Academy Awards that was a bit baffling was Tom Hooper winning Best Director for The King’s Speech. While he did a good job, and the story is compelling, this isn’t a story-teller’s film. It’s an actor’s film. As such Hooper doesn’t have to do much actual story-telling; he has to set up scenes involving two game actors with meaty parts.
The eventual King George VI of England (Colin Firth) was once just the Duke of York, most likely to live a life in the shadows of his brother (and heir to the throne) Prince Edward (Guy Pearce). And it’s for good reason; George VI had a notoriously awful stammer. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, as the lesser Prince would not need to be the grand public speaker a King would be (and his brother is), but when Edward abdicates the thrown for a woman George inherits the thrown and his problem because center stage. Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist with unorthodox methods, to try to cure his speech impediment. With the specter of world war on the horizon, and the newfound King having a speech to rally a country behind the effort, it’s up to the two to try and cure a King.
It’s a fairly pedestrian plot, about a pair of men from opposite ends of the spectrum forming a friendship, but this isn’t a film about story. There’s nothing overtly complicated or detailed about the film that requires a great story to tell. This is an actor’s film and Tom Hooper just has to get out of their way. And ultimately that’s what he does as this isn’t a film that focuses on story. It focuses on the relationship of two men who forged an unlikely friendship. And it comes from a pair of brilliant performances, one of which earned an Academy Award.
Colin Firth got the higher profile role as Bertie, the future King George VI but it’s also a much more difficult one than Geoffrey Rush, his elocution instructor. Pulling off a stammer without it being comical or insulting, or both, is remarkably difficult and Firth has to do this while tackling a fairly complex character. He’s normally a confident, articulate leading man and has to play a man decidedly different than his usual parts. This is man who never was meant to be King of England and never planned on it who wound up with the throne by circumstance; he had lived his life as if he never would have to prepare for this role. It’s a tough role but made infinitely easier because he shares a rapport with Geoffrey Rush that comes through.
Rush is essentially in the comic fool aspect of their double man team as he gets most of the best lines but he plays it much different than merely as a foil. Lionel is a man given a task for which he is suited for and winds up with a lifelong friend in the King of England. It’s easy for an actor to play comedy in this aspect but it’s tougher for the drama, especially with this role and Rush matches Firth on screen with an equal amount of grace.
The King’s Speech was an easy film to pick for an Oscar because it has the sort of story that appeals to the voters. It’s not a brilliant film but it’s a good one.
Presented in a widescreen format with a Dolby Digital surround, this is a rather sharp presentation. This is a period piece, with a diverse color palette, and it comes through cleanly and clearly.
The King’s Speech: An Inspirational Story of an Unlikely Friendship is a generic making of feature that really doesn’t give much insight into the film despite it’s rather impressive length for an EPK.
There’s a Q&A session with Hooper and the cast.
A pair of Features about the two principles are included, one involving an interview with Lionel Logue’s descendants and excerpts from speeches by King George.
A Commentary Track with Hooper is also included.
Though it’s probably destined to become a forgettable Oscar winner, The King’s Speech has a pair of unforgettable performances not to be missed.
The Weinstein Company presents The King’s Speech . Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring Colin Firth, Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush. Written by David Seidler. Running time: 118 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: April 19, 2011.
Tags: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, guy pearce, Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech, Tom Hooper