There always seems to come a time in every British actor or actress' career where they must play the role of a historical British monarch. Riding on the success of his career defining performance in A Single Man and sampling the glory of Best Actor nominations across the award circuits, Colin Firth comes storming back with another film, determined, this time, to take the all the prizes with him too. But is The King's Speech worth its pre-Oscar hype?
Set across the years between the First and Second World War, The King's Speech concentrates on the rise of King George VI (Firth) and his personal woes, including his infamous stammer and disdain for public speaking. Obviously being royalty, having an ability to engage the public in moving and inspirational speeches tends to be a necessity of the job. In attempt to overcome this disability he's entrusted in the care of the eccentric and flamboyant speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).
Over the course of the film, the two men of distinctly different social classes come to blows but ultimately forge a friendship which will last a lifetime. Colin Firth's portrayal of George VI (or simply Bertie to his family and friends) was a fascinating insight into the king's troubled personal life. His tragic inability to speak, both in public and to his family, was also tender and, in a way, heart-warmingly humbling. While Firth will deservedly get the plaudits for his regal starring role, it was Geoffrey Rush's witty, genuine, off-the-wall performance as Logue which personally blew me away, with immense comic timing and inability to be overwhelmed while in the presence of his most prestigious client.
The supporting cast was littered with enough real quality to make any award body take notice, and make most audiences marvel in delight. The graceful and articulate Helen Bonham Carter gave a honest and loving performance as the late Queen Mother, Elizabeth. Michael Gambon was sharp and somewhat intimidating as Bertie's father, King George V. Guy Pearce was arrogantly brilliant as Firth's brother and predecessor, King Edward VIII.
While the excellent Timothy Spall shone once again, in his second portrayal as the great Winston Churchill (his first was in October's god awful stop animation, Jackboots on Whitehall). Was also a pleasure to see the classy Jennifer Ehle - who starred opposite Firth in, perhaps, his most famous role as Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice - as Lionel's wife.
Tom Hooper should also be credited for making a visually engaging period drama, which never once felt tired or dull on the eyes, as a lot of these quintessentially British affairs can so often become. The film's themes are also an uplifting and enjoyable treat for all, a story of friendship between essentially a prince and a pauper, a man's journey to overcome his own personal adversaries and become the king he was born to be. Yes we won't lie, this isn't original by any means, these are classic tried and tested formulas that can be found across a pantheon of cinema, but rarely to this level of detail and panache.
The most elegant buddy comedy in cinematic history? Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush's performances make The King's Speech an enthralling journey which is heart-warming, humorous and genuinely sincere. By the time this review goes to print the film will have swept numerous nominations at this year's Golden Globes and, in this critic's mind, is very much worthy of it. Highly recommended.
The King's Speech is in cinemas across the UK from January 7th 2010