Like 2006’s The Queen, The King’s Speech examines a series of factual, historical events and dramatizes them for cinematic entertainment. Similarly, it has a brilliant performance by a gifted actor, this time Colin Firth, in a role certain to receive Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Unfortunately, it also retains the one major fault: despite exceptional acting and a few rousing scenes, the story is largely based on significant English culture and history, which isn’t all that engrossing for American audiences. While there’s mild mounting tension, the crux of the film rests on a mere speech recital which is in itself largely anticlimactic.In 1925, King George V (Michael Gambon) reigns. He asks his son, the Duke of York, Prince Albert (Colin Firth) to deliver a speech during the largest exhibition in the world. Due to an embarrassing stammer, his important moment is filled with pity and doubt from an audience of thousands (one wonders why this problem wasn’t fixed when he was still a child). By 1934 he’s still struggling with his speech impediment, and as the years pass, it’s becoming increasingly more crucial to be able to speak publicly. Gone are the days in which Kings could merely wave at crowds and look grand. Due to the rising popularity of radio and microphones, Albert, with the help of his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), is forced to seek out therapists, including those with traditional methods and those with archaic ones – such as the use of seven hot marbles in the mouth.
George V’s son David (Guy Pearce) is a buffoon, refusing to adopt his political duties, instead preoccupied with married women – namely Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), a twice-married Baltimore lady who the church wishes would remain a secret mistress. But David is determined to wed her. When Parliament and the Church refuse to back his decision, he’s forced to resign from the throne, leaving Albert to become King George VI in 1936. By 1939 and the entry into World War II, Albert has finally arrived at a point in which he can recite a stimulating speech, thanks to the constant, unorthodox and unconventional therapy from Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a man who realizes his instruction must transcend the scope of mechanical talking to touch upon hidden emotions, a troubled past and a need for friendship.
The King’s Speech takes a light, pleasant, comic approach to serious, chronicled events, making them enlightening and fun. The acting is leaps and bounds ahead of the other components of the film, with powerful deliveries and poignant chemistry from genuinely believable, likeable characters. The use of spacious backgrounds hiding tiny people offset in the corners of the frame is a noticeable technical aspect, as is the use of classical music to preside over training montages and passing time. Beethoven in particular is expertly used during the climax. Although the pacing is deliberate, at times it lingers too long on faces and unimportant details. Ultimately, The King’s Speech is a well-constructed work of deglorifying monarchal celebrity, gaining confidence and overcoming fears, but will only be remembered for its two masterly lead performances.- Mike Massie