By Sean Kelly
The King’s Speech was this year’s winner of the People’s Choice Award at TIFF and seems a very likely frontrunner for Best Picture in the Oscar race. The film tells the story of King George VI (Colin Firth), who is plagued with a stuttering problem, which is certainly less than ideal for someone expected to make regular speeches. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) locates an unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to cure his affliction.
Historically, the film takes place primarily in the years prior to King George, then known as Prince Albert, taking the throne. It was expected that Albert’s older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) would take the crown after the death of King George V (Michael Gambon). However, when circumstances force Edward to relinquish the crown to Albert, his sessions with Logue become all the more important.
What makes this film work is the chemistry between Firth and Rush. Firth plays King George as a very introverted man, which plays wonderfully off Rush’s very theatrical character (it’s established that Logue is a failed actor). It’s pretty much the straight man/funny man comedy duo placed within a historical context. These therapy scenes add hilarious comedy to what is otherwise a historical drama and it really helps make this film stand out from similar types of films.
Sadly, the MPAA doesn’t seem to have that much of a sense of humour, since the most hilarious of these sessions (which has Logue encouraging King George to curse as many times as possible) resulted in the film receiving an R rating in the US. I could write a whole separate article about the MPAA’s decision, but it will suffice to say that I found this rating a bit harsh, especially since I didn’t find anything particularly vulgar about the scene. It also says a lot about the differences between American and Canadian morals when you compare the fact that the Ontario Film Review Board gave this film a PG rating (swearing and all).
Overall, I am confident enough to say that The King’s Speech is one of the best films of the year and I am sure that it will walk away with a Best Picture Oscar nomination (and may even win it). I also really think that the Academy should create a new category for Best Onscreen Chemistry and give it to Firth and Rush. It’s that good.