Thursday, December 23, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: The King's Speech

Finally saw The King's Speech, the latest Oscar-bait ("Based on the incredible true story") from The Weinstein Company. It is directed by Tom Hooper, starring the crème de la crème of British acting talent (Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Timothy Squall as Winston Churchill, Michael Gambon as King George V) as well as some renowned Australian actors (Geoffrey Rush and Guy Pearce).

The King's Speech is widely seen as a front-runner for the 2010 Best Picture Oscar, with Firth garnering kudos from almost every critics group under the sun and building a convincing claim that last year's Best Actor nomination for A Single Man was merely a precursor to a win this year. Rush, who already has a Best Actor statuette for Shine, is generating buzz for a supporting Oscar, but it looks like Christian Bale's work in The Fighter may have that category wrapped up.

It's hard to evaluate the film outside the context of the annual Oscar race, especially considering the Weinsteins' history and the caliber of the actors involved. Hooper is a well-regarded but youthful British direct most well-known for the HBO miniseries John Adams which starred Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney and won a boatload of Emmys last year.

The King's Speech is about the story of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue who worked with the Duke of York (the King's second oldest son) to try to correct a severe stammer and a concomitant paralyzing fear of public speaking. Firth does a heart-wrenching job of portraying the agony of a chronic stutterer. Since, he is second-in-line for the throne, Firth's character (called Bertie by his friends and family) has many, many opportunities (and obligations) to give public speeches and the film depicts the way time seems to stand still as Firth labors to produce coherent and articulate sounds. In addition to the personal journey of Bertie to overcome what appears to be an insurmountable disability, the film also is leavened with suspense as the political intrigue thickens as Bertie's brother becomes King, making Bertie next in line. Of course, the problem is that if Bertie becomes King then of course he will have even more obligations to speak publicly.

Overall, the film depicts pre-World War II era London impeccably. Firth's performance, along with Bonham Carter's clever turn as his consort and Rush's attempt to steal scenes are the main reasons to see the film. Although it is hugely entertaining and captivating, I did n;t leave the film thinking "Wow, that was a reallly good movie" which is how I did feel when I walked out of Toy Story 3Inception, The Kids Are All Right and The Social Network.

Title: The King's Speech.
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.
MPAA Rating: R for some language.
Release Date: Friday, November 26, 2010.
Seen: Tuesday, December 21, 2010.

Plot: B+.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: A.

Overall Grade: A- (3.75/4.0).

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