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Colin Firth stars as George VI in Tom Hooper's right royal period drama, alongside Geoffrey Rush as the monarch's unconventional secret weapon.
If Mr Oscar is a hungry fish, the critical and marketing momentum behind The King's Speech would have us believe Tom Hooper's film is the juiciest of haute cuisine worms, wriggling enticingly at the end of a perfectly poised rod. A dramatisation of the relationship between incurable stammerer George VI (Colin Firth) and self-styled "unorthodox and controversial" Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), the film is a postcard from simpler times - a from-a-true-story royal postcard, no less. Despite pricey period production (think nostalgically picturesque London fog and Bovril ads painted on brick walls), ample stiff upper lip stereotypes for Anglophile US audiences to lap up and a moving dash of anachronistic psychologising, all the pomp and circumstance is kept in check by Logue's underdog charm.
Nominations, at the very least, for Colin-"2011-has-to-be-his-year"-Firth, Rush and screenwriter David Seidler are as good as guaranteed. Bish bash bosh. Batter those statuettes and wrap em up in fish and chip paper.
To give the film its dues, the awards nods are as roundly deserved as they are predictable. Firth is reliably outstanding as the taciturn monarch-in-waiting: younger brother to a rather odious, bullying playboy (a not entirely convincing Guy Pearce as Edward VIII), wife to the future Queen Mother (an iron-gloved, velvet-fisted Bonham Carter) and son to tyrannical patriarch George V (an intimidating Michael Gambon). The part of the emotionally repressed, hot-tempered but warm-hearted overshadowed sibling, son and diffident heir is a gift for Firth, and Firth a gift for the part.
Enter Rush as his foil, "a jumped-up jackeroo from the outback", who instantly raises hackles, insisting on calling George by his family nickname, 'Bertie', and insisting Bertie visit him at his ramshackle office ("my castle, my rules"). The film unfolds as a snugly satisfying two-hander, and it's no surprise that Seidler's elegantly witty script was originally conceived for theatre.
We are treated to montages of the odd couple performing comically absurd therapeutic exercises, Firth loosening his tongue with a tour de force in posh profanity, an eleventh hour tiff between patient and soon-to-be-crowned king and a stirring reconciliation on the eve of war. As Elizabeth concedes, having been instructed to bounce up and down on her husband's diaphragm, "This is actually quite good fun." It's just quite cosy fun.
If you don't go in believing the hype, you'll probably enjoy this more. Top-drawer performances and a script spun from an intriguing episode in the British blueblood annals, this is a solid, slick but undeniably conventional crowd-pleaser.
The acclaimed filmmaker and critic talks to Film4.com editor Catherine Bray about his film A Story Of Children And Film, which premiered in Cannes Classics [caption id="attachment_2512" align="alignn
Film4.com editor Catherine Bray catches a morning screening of Sideways director Alexander Payne's Nebraska at Cannes... In 1985, Alexander Payne made a short film called Carmen, which relocated th