The King's Speech
November 26, 2010
On the Big Board
|A brilliant performance from Geoffrey Rush elevates the film in my eyes, but it's quite paint by numbers otherwise. Waaaaaay overrated.
From the time he portrayed Mr. Darcy in the BBC Miniseries Pride & Prejudice, women have been swooning over Colin Firth. Roles in films like Bridget Jones's Diary and Love, Actually reinforced his presence as a romantic icon. In 2009, though, things changed up a bit for the British actor. He starred in a small but highly buzzed about film called A Single Man, directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, and this time around he played a somber gay man mourning the death of his partner. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal, and although he eventually lost to Jeff Bridges, people starting taking his talent more seriously.
Fast forward one year later to the 2010 awards season, and Firth is once again one of the key candidates in the discussion for Best Actor - along with his mighty nemesis Jeff Bridges. Now, Firth stars as King George VI in The King's Speech, in a movie that tells the story of the man's sudden rise to the monarchy, as well as the adversity he faced due to a speech disability.
The film is directed by Tom Hooper, a man who has had some success with the historical drama genre, as he previously directed the extremely well-received HBO miniseries John Adams and received an Emmy award for his work on the Helen Mirren miniseries Elizabeth I. His first feature film was The Damned United, a fictionalized British indie that tells the story of Brian Clough's short tenure as the coach of Leeds United. That film is 94% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a few awards of its own, including some Golden Satellites and a British Independent Award. Hooper is definitely making an impression as his career develops.
He's certainly been able to work alongside some great performers, including Paul Giamatti, Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Jeremy Irons. Hooper continues that trend with The King's Speech, as along with Firth, he's directing Geoffrey Rush (Academy Award winner for Shine), Helena Bonham Carter (Academy Award nominee for The Wings of the Dove), Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, and the glorious Derek Jacobi (The Master from Doctor Who and a leading classical actor with two knighthoods - Danish and British). Bonham Carter portrays the king's wife (we all knew her as the Queen Mum) and Rush plays the speech therapist who helps the king gain the confidence to perform as a competent leader.
An interesting trivia note for the film is the fact that Jennifer Ehle, who was Elizabeth Bennet to Firth's Mr. Darcy in the aforementioned Pride & Prejudice, plays the wife of Rush's character. Most people aren't going to connect those dots, but it's a nice touch to reunite Firth and Ehle in a film, even if they're not exactly connected in a relationship for this one.
The King's Speech has that perfect combination of acting pedigree, historical story, and a lead character who must overcome obstacles that Oscar loves to reward. It's going to be a quiet contender, but it certainly isn't one that should be dismissed. With the Weinstein Company behind its release, we know that they're perfectly capable of influencing the nomination process. It looks like this year, they've got a film with the quality to back them up. (Kim Hollis/BOP)