King of the airwaves.
At some point in a performer’s career, he or she is given the opportunity to play a character that is impaired or afflicted in a way that most of us are not. In such instances, the gimmick of the performance itself is often seen as thespian brilliance (Forrest Gump) and the costar, or often star, is frequently overlooked though he or she may have given a much more nuanced and outstanding performance (Girl, Interrupted).
In Tom Hooper’s new film, The King’s Speech, Colin Firth portrays Prince Albert, the Duke of York, in his years before his reluctant ascendance to the throne, giving the actor the opportunity to play a hampered character of his own. In this case, a man with an unfortunate stammer. Firth is on comfortable ground here, playing the kind of nebbishy but endearing man to whom American audiences have become accustomed. Yet, as with the best performances, he injects Albert with a desperation, anxiety, and humanity that go beyond his handicap. As such, his King George is a person who stammers, not a stammering person.
Geoffrey Rush is equally poweful as Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, who coaches Albert (Bertie) during the decade leading up to World War II, and would become his lifelong friend. Logue displays as much confidence as Bertie does apprehension, providing the perfect yang to his yin. The two are excellently cast as they play off each other well and give the film a perfect balance.
The same cannot be said of Tom Hooper’s direction. Awkward fisheye cinematography shrinks the film from a motion picture to a PBS drama, and the narrative does not unfold in any natural way. Perhaps recognizing his limitations, he wisely lets his actors do all the work, and the results are marvelous. And of course, one must not discount Alexandre Desplat, as he delivers yet another pleasant and soulful score.
The King’s Speech is certainly one of the better films of the year. Not groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, but in a year with few real gems, it stands out among the rest.
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