A crowd-pleasing, inspiring, if predictable period picture which understands the minutia and complexities of daily life works so from firsthand accounts and diaries.
The King's Speech stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, and has intimate impact from palpable (fairly recent) British history.
While many (especially art house cineastes) will love the decor brought by such a refined production beginning in 1925, it's the inter-relationship between Firth's Bertie, the Duke of York, later to be King George VI and his dissident, off-color speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Rush) which often elevates what is much more than well-crafted, articulated costumer.
Initially, Bertie, a young prince, is reticent and troubled when needed to deliver words to the masses. You see, he has a stuttering issue, and by extension a sagging self-esteem. The Australian Logue comes into the picture even demanding regal familiarity as he toils to make the monarch someone who really needs to be heard, especially later when Nazism reared its ugly head.
A witty, canny screenplay from David Seidler provides a kick of integrity and backstory for crippling pressures for a man embarrassed at a British Empire Exhibition. There's no overnight eureka moment for someone opining for beloved orator status, so what makes The King's Speech is often what isn't spoken even with many pungent line readings.
Tom Hooper, helmer of The Damned United, gives Firth and Rush the kind of support that stirs up a compelling story and figures aiming to convince with clarity and charisma. His aplomb with his crew, especially via the lensing and elegant music from Alexandre Desplat, eavesdrops and augments the importance of someone thrust into an important position. All the while with film newsreels and radio signaling groundbreaking shift in mass communication.
The dexterity from the director and scribe more than helps a very committed, internalizing Firth (on par with his pensive professor in last year's A Single Man) embrace the vantage point of a hesitant feeble man who bickers less with his therapist as he realizes "I've got a voice!" Rush (one of the producers) could have Oscar calling his name out for the supporting category as Logue is more than the fine foil he is for the drama that sweeps Bertie and a nation.
Through its use of detailed text and characters some may be reminded of The Queen which may have been more fascinating and less conventional, but here is a multi-stranded costume drama that is artful and resplendent and prescient of its time.
One has to acknowledge the presence of Helena Bonham Carter (currently in Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1) who gives Queen Elizabeth I full-fledged stature to help her husband confront his debilitated condition. And, gifted thespians like Michael Gambon and Timothy Spall play distinguished types like King George V and Winston Churchill, respectively, while Guy Pearce ("Animal Kingdom") is the Duke of York's abdicating brother in Edward VIII.
With a first-rate, facile Firth and Rush leading the way, a finely understated, stylishly produced The King's Speech brings sensible cinematic eloquence to social pressures that are so easily identifiable and excitement to what could have been pointless, momentous bombast.