Review: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech | Tom Hooper, 2010

Every year, during November and December studios release what they think is their most prestigious picks. Most of them are what we like to call Oscar bait. Like the definition above says, they are usually period dramas set during important/harsh times of history that are meant to appeal to the emotions of the Academy members so that they win many awards. These movies are not always  necessarily bad, sometimes they are indeed great, but in some cases it is so obvious that you can’t help but laugh. The biggest culprits of starting this Oscar Bait thing were the Weinsteins during their days at Miramax. It was them who started the late release to keep the movies fresh in the members of the voters, it was them who started the aggressive campaigning, it was them who started all the madness. Now, after a break of their usual schemes (since The Reader, I guess since a Tarantino cannot be called Oscar Bait), with Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, which fits the definition perfectly, but it happens to be one of the better ones.

The King’s Speech tells the story of the rise of King George VI as he became king. At first, he is just the Duke of York and pretty much just has to make public appearance. But the problem is that he has a stuttering problem, so he is not a good speaker. He has tried many speech therapists, but none of them have been able to cure him, or at least get him to talk properly for his speeches. But one day, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) hears about Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian therapist who has a very unique approach to Stutter treatment. Obviously at first they don’t get along, but as the movie progresses, and he has to take over his older brother Albert (Guy Pearce) after he renounces the crown to be with the woman of his dreams, they must work together to get rid of his problem even as World War II lurks around the corner.

So just by reading that synopsis, you can see what I mean by saying it is the definition of Oscar bait. Period piece? Check. World War II? Check. British? Check. British actors playing royalty? Check. Physical or mental disease/impediment? Check. Harvey Weinstein? Check. But like I said, even with all of this, it is actually a pretty good movie. The main reason for this is the performances from the two leads and their chemistry. Colin Firth, who is likely to win the Oscar this year, gives one the best performances of his career. Sure, it’s not up to par to his career-topping performance in A Single Man, but it’s up there. Geoffrey Rush is a ton of fun event though he is not wearing pirate makeup. Their scenes together are the higlight of the film and when we are seeing things that happen outside of their therapy sessions or their relationship the movie drags.  Helena Bonham-Carter, who is getting a ton of nominations for her performance here, is good, but there really isn’t much for her to do. Most of the time, she just stands there and is supporting her husband. The rest of the cast is also good, but run into the same problem as Bonham-Carter.

Elsewhere, the movie also succeeds but there are some huge flaws. The biggest flaw of them all has got to be Tom Hooper’s direction. He didn’t do a bad job, but what he did with having the actors be on the side of the screen and pretty much focus of the shot got kind of annoying by the end. It workst at first to show how the royals are not always, you know, centered and all that, and it further pushes the feeling of isolation, but he just continues to use it. Another flawed thing was Alexandre Desplat’s score. I liked the theme, but the rest was kind of  boring. It was disappointing, especially considering that this year he had what could possibly be a career topper (The Ghost Writer), one that bests John Williams in a franchise whose music he stablished (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1), and a fun comedy score (Tamara Drewe).

Besides that, the general production is great. The cinematography, with the exceptions of the shots I mentioned, is generally great. The sets and the costumes are typical for this kind of movie, but they obviously work with the story.

Overall, this the kind of movie that will leave everyone that is simply looking for a good time satisfied. It is an interesting story, although at times it seems like the writer didn’t know where to go with it. By the end I was so into it that when he gives the speech after Britain declared war on Germany, I could not help but want to stand up and cheer although it is handled in a rather quiet manner. Not a great movie, but a satisfying one.


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