It's hard to imagine Colin Firth not taking home the academy award for Best Actor in February. His latest has all the credentials: famous protagonist with affliction that's not, achem, full-retard; a historical setting, and an inspirational message. But you know - it's one thing to theorize an oscar winner it's another to produce one. But rest assured, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech is quite an elegant product indeed, thanks in very large part to the trifecta of outstanding performances on display.
Firth plays King George VI, or Bertie to his family, a stumbling stammering monarch in 1930's England. Bertie-boy enlists help from Lionel Logue - a speech therapist - to improve his neurotic word choking, so he can speak with strength and dignity for his country on the eve of WWII.
Though he has no credentials or degree, Logue (wonderfully played by Geoffrey Rush) has loads of experience, including helping shell shocked vets regain their speech. He's a man of austerity and cognizance, but also faith. He likes to say that he can cure anyone that wants to be cured. As a theater hobbyist and Shakespeare admirer, Logue understands the beauty of speech and tries to relate to Bertie that he has a voice and he must not be afraid to use it.
The King's Speech is predictable, but incredibly engaging because it's not a movie that asks what - that's obvious, read a history book - but why? Why does the King struggle to speak? Firth is extraordinary as said king. He inhabits the man and makes it look effortless: the panicked face and nervous ticks, the quiet self-doubt and sudden bursts of aggravation. He's a sensitive, ambivalent, and anxious fella who trips and stumbles over his words because he's all bottled up. Bertie contemplates the commoners he knows nothing of and vice-versa, as well as his callous father and brother of which he could say the same. He is disconnected.
Rush's Lionel Logue is able to connect because he doesn't treat him like a king, but an equal, insisting on calling him Bertie and not Your-Majesty. The psycho-analytical swordplay the two men engage in is both riveting and revealing, of both men.
Helena Bonham Carter as Bertie's wife, the Queen, also deserves props for her charm and gentle understanding. She demands attention even up against her screen-hogging costars.
Polished and artistically directed by Tom Hooper, The King's Speech is oscar bait of the most scrumptous variety. It deserves the acting accolades it will surely recieve. If history is people, places, and events then Speech is cinematic delight because it focuses in on the people: who they really were and what they were able to say - I mean, after finding their voices of course.