- 17 Jan 11
Classy Brit-drama screams Oscar contender
In the opening scene of The King’s Speech, Albert the Duke of York (Colin Firth) stands in front of a microphone preparing to give a speech to a huge audience. But his voice falters and he begins to gulp breathlessly, only managing to force out staccatoed syllables that echo mercilessly around the completely silent arena. As his eyes widen in panic and his shoulders slump, the congregation turn away, unable to face the raw vulnerability this insecure Prince is inflicting upon them. What kind of King can he be, the audience’s reaction implies, when he has failed, in the most literal sense, to maintain a British stiff upper lip?
Set in the 1930s, Tom Hooper’s compelling period biopic tells the story of Albert’s impromptu ascension to the throne and his relationship with Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an eccentric speech therapist he commissions to help rectify his stammer in time for a publicly broadcast speech following his coronation.
Firth’s performance is nothing short of perfection. His approach to the physicality of his character’s stammer is meticulous, but he never over-performs it for the sake of sentimentality. Instead Firth focuses on portraying Albert’s pitiably unwavering belief that his stammer makes what he has to say not worth hearing. A scene in which he hesitates to tell a bedtime story to his doting daughters illustrates just how deep his insecurities lie, and his constant self-loathing frustration is heartbreaking to watch.
Rush is similarly wonderful, imbuing the jovial and irreverent Logue with passion as well as humour, fluidly moving from scenes of giddiness to sombre conviction so naturally that his relationship with Albert becomes a complexly engaging one, filled with as many rows as jokes.
Beautifully shot, Hooper frequently frames his actors in wonderful tableaux, and while some of the larger set pieces falter, his mist-covered London is for the most part stunning. A simple, moving and incredibly enjoyable film, The King’s Speech is bound to set the Academy’s tongues a-wagging.