On paper, “The King’s Speech” is about King George VI of England, who has a stutter and cannot escape public speaking. Though this may seem like boring Oscar bait, the film is far more interesting than its premise sounds.
The movie follows Prince Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth), as he struggles to speak to crowds at different exhibitions in England. After growing more discouraged with failed attempts to correct his speech impediment, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), finds an unorthodox therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to cure Albert’s stammer. The lessons become integral when King George V of England (Michael Gambon) dies and Albert’s brother Edward abdicates the throne. This forces a stammering Albert, now King George VI, in front of BBC radio microphones to calm a nation on the cusp of World War II.
As a biopic, the movie faces the daunting task of explaining the real story — King George V dying, Prince Edward taking the throne, and then abdicating to marry an American woman — while making the whole ordeal entertaining. As a period piece, the film also has to incorporate the World War II bomb droppings in the background. However, what could turn into a dull and lengthy history lesson doesn’t; director Tom Hooper keeps the pace quick with witty dialogue and relatable characters.
With a montage of radio microphones and shots of British citizens listening to the king’s titular speech, Hooper makes a seemingly innocent piece of technology villainous. Scenes of failed therapy sessions depict an increasingly frustrated king and humanize a seemingly unsympathetic monarch.
This movie was practically made for Oscar nominations, especially with its star-studded cast, who all deliver stellar performances. Firth continues his fantastic streak of work by giving a heartfelt performance of a king-to-be whose determination to fix his stammer intrigues viewers. Bonham Carter convincingly embodies a sympathetic wife who stands by her husband against all odds. Though playing a delightfully kooky therapist, Rush’s deep connection with the king is more like a supportive camaraderie.
Unlike other award-heavy films, however, this one stays light without stuttering through dull filler sections or losing its plot in the historical details. With its strangely appealing premise and fantastic cast and directing, “The King’s Speech” is bound to be Oscar royalty.
“The King’s Speech” was written by David Seidler and directed by Tom Hooper.