The Kings Speech details King George VIs (Colin Firth) rise from Duke of York to the throne, and his interactions with speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The setting is Britain right before World War II. When the Duke of Yorks king brother abdicates, responsibility to keep the nations morale high is suddenly transferred to George VI, a man with a stammer. Radio is becoming more and more popular, and the King must overcome his speech impediment so that he can address his country in a public broadcast, giving citizens some much-needed support.
The movies main character may stutter, but the film itself certainly doesnt. Colin Firth is wonderfully cast here, and gives a tremendous performance. Somehow, he manages to encapsulate all of the characteristics of a stammering king, while never overacting. Instead of being showy, Firth plays his character both subtly and intensely; his introverted nature is apparent simply through facial expression, while his short temper flares hotly when the scene calls for it. The stress of having grown up among royalty (and with an impediment, no less) has clearly taken its toll upon our protagonist, making him layered and infinitely interesting to watch. Geoffrey Rush does not shine quite as brilliantly as his co-star does (lets face it, though-who can?), but nonetheless does exceptionally in the role he is given. As the Kings personal mentor and friend, Logue is not only a key player in the story, but also a major influence on George VIs self esteem.
Not to be left out here are two more performances of note: Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, the Kings loving wife; and Guy Pearce as Edward, George VIs brother. Just like Logue, Elizabeth is supportive of the King in times of need and crisis, working with her husband to help him overcome his verbal challenges. Edward is the irresponsible brother who becomes King, but must renounce the royalty over to his (more capable) brother, due to a romantic choice (Edwards fiancee is a divorced woman: a big no-no for British kings).
David Seidlers script is very solid: dramatic, touching, and often funny. For parents who are up in the air about letting their children watch The Kings Speech because of its R rating, ignore the MPAA and go see it with them. The film only has such a high rating because of bad language, all of which is used here in good taste and helps drive the plot forward. This is thanks to Seidlers careful handling of the screenplay, which never uses tasteless humor. As sophisticated and British as the dialogue is, it never loses momentum, and constantly engrosses the viewer.
Danny Cohen delivers really nice cinematography, aided and abetted by top tier production and costume design. The films look plays a major part in setting up the time, tone, and location, and is easy on the eyes. Tom Hoopers very good direction helps convey frustration whenever George VI must speak publicly, using the camera to capture nervousness and the stakes of each scene. Who would have thought a simple speech could be so suspenseful?
In the end, The Kings Speech is a crowd-pleasing experience. While not groundbreaking or bold, it conveys an interesting historical story extremely well. The film-making is classic, performances are great across the board, and the art direction is sublime. The MPAA should have rated this an MS for Must See, as this is one you wont want to miss.