DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2010 (wide)
Rating: R (for some language)
Genre: Drama, History, Biopic
Run Time: 118 min.
Director: Tom Hooper
Actors: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Paul Trussel, Charles Armstrong, Jennifer Ehle
Best known as the unconventional romantic Mr. Darcy on two separate occasions, the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice and two installments of Bridget Jones' Diary, Colin Firth has successfully broadened his acting horizons lately with far more serious, substantive roles.
And because of his astute proficiency with storylines that extend beyond the quest for eventually getting the girl, Firth should easily score back-to-back "Best Actor" Oscar nods, thanks to an incredible, emotion-packed performance in The King's Speech.
Unlike many films that are practically tailor-made for Oscar a la Rain Man, The Hours and The Queen, there's nothing pretentious, plodding or overtly showy about this engaging period drama. If anything, the film's thoughtfully accessible structure, not to mention the ever-relatable class conflict that's present throughout, is not unlike your favorite sports' movie where you're rooting for the proverbial underdog every step of the way.
But before anyone confuses The King's Speech for say, Rudy or even The Blind Side, there's far more than meets the eye in this multi-layered story of a man who's reluctant to become King because of a humiliating speech impediment, and Firth effectively drives that point home from the opening reel.
Kicking off in 1925, we're introduced to the second son of King George V (Michael Gambon), who was known simply as Prince Albert (Firth) at the time. Never expected to succeed his father because that's what his older brother, Prince Edward (Guy Pearce) was always supposed to do, Albert was just fine with a simple life with his lovely wife (Helena Bonham Carter) far, far away from the spotlight's glare.
As fate would have it, however, Albert's days in the political background are numbered after his morally flexible brother, who later becomes King Edward VIII, abdicates the throne for a scandalous love affair involving an American divorcée.
Now forced to step up during a particularly turbulent time in history, his stammer is seriously standing in the way of earning any sort of respect, not only with the people he's presiding over, but his own family. So in an effort to help her husband after an awkward public address to the British Empire Exhibition, his wife enlists the help of an unlikely teacher, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an eccentric to the core who's been trained (informally, mind you) in elocution, namely the study of formal speaking in pronunciation, grammar, style and tone.
Utilizing rather unorthodox methods to correct the condition, including introducing the by-the-rules royal to a mere common man's existence, Lionel and Albert don't exactly hit it off at first. But as they begin to understand each other better and forge some common ground, their friendship not only grows, but helps each other to become the best version of himself.
Watching Albert slowly grow in confidence—and conviction—is just one of the film's many pleasures. In their scenes together, Firth and Rush have tremendous chemistry and that shows in what's probably the finest performance in both of their long careers.
From a technical standpoint, The King's Speech shines just as bright, thanks to handsome cinematography. But aside from the performances, what ultimately steals the show is the screenwriter's ear for dialogue and a script that really sparkles. In a year where dumb movies have been the norm, The King's Speech is an absolute revelation. Now here's hoping Firth has an equally grand speech prepared when he accepts his trophy in February…
Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking and cigarette smoking.
Language/Profanity: Approximately 20 uses of the "f" word, plus several instances where sh—, da--, bas----, a--and he-- are said, along with the decidedly British profanities "bloody" and "bugger." The Lord's name is also taken in vain on a couple of occasions.
Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity, just discussion of past sexual affairs that's not graphic. Also, some rude references to male and female anatomy.
Violence: None, unless you count Albert's verbal assaults directed toward Lionel.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.