Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paragraph Movie Reviews: The King's Speech

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

With technical brilliance and tour de force acting, The King's Speech in my estimation lived up to the hype even being an Academy Award for Best Picture brings with it. From the first measured shots of microphones through every pan and close-up, I was fully taken in by how Tom Hooper chose to frame his work and the visual calculation with which it was pulled off. Every set, costume and sound effect worked in the harmony you hope for from every movie. But even with all those aspects handled so expertly, it was in the performances that a story ostensibly of a man learning to control a stutter--surrounded though it was by political intrigue and the most explosive conflict of our times--became an engaging, tense, funny and riveting ride. The "action" scenes were montages of speech exercises or slow frames of a man taking to a microphone, but I felt as though I was watching Rocky for how invested I was. Colin Firth's King George is one of the finest performances I have seen in some time, capturing a complex figure who is at once a tortured outcast, an explosive child, a pitiable victim, a witty gent, a warm family man, and ultimately a good king. Firth plays every aspect expertly, with vigor, and shifts between them without a hitch; I felt awful for him, I felt anxious with him, I laughed at him and I rooted for him. Geoffrey Rush holds up his end of the central dynamic with equally adept skill, balancing the quirkiness of Lionel Logue with a brashness and confidence that never makes him seem the bad guy, but does give him sufficient edge; the chemistry between Firth and Rush is undeniable. It was a joy to see Helene Bonham Carter play against type (at least so far as the roles I've seen her in), coming off charming and whimsical as Elizabeth. Michael Gambon and Guy Pearce were nice casting coups as stoic George V and carousing Edward VIII while Timothy Spall demonstrated his usual chameleon skill in mimicking Winston Churchill. If I were to bring some criticism against the film it would be that the ebb and flow of Bertie and Lionel's relationship does get a bit extreme at times, their friendship swelling and dissipating alternately to a degree I didn't think was justified by what was taking place onscreen and could only be ascribed to holes in the narrative, but Firth and Rush were so spot on in conveying the evolution in their performances it's easily forgiven. The last ten minutes of a guy simply delivering a speech were as compelling and intense as any climax I've seen in recent years; this one earned its accolades.