For some reason, the newest winner always seems to be the hardest to judge – the season is still fresh in one’s mind, all the different opinions and critics about the movie are all around the Internet. And the year of 2011 probably saw one of the strangest awards season ever. The Social Network so clearly dominated the race from the first day, winning basically every award under the sun and seemed destined for a sweep right up to the Oscars. But suddenly the three most important guild awards went to The King’s Speech and all of a sudden it became the overwhelming frontrunner and expectedly won the Oscar for Best Picture. All this basically guarantees a backlash of royal proportions – basically, the backlash has already begun even before the Oscars were handed out and it can be expected that The King’s Speech’s reputation will rather suffer from the Oscar win than benefit. Well, when all is said and done, every movie has its share of fans and opponents – and I am glad to be on the fan-side of The King’s Speech.
Set in England during the 1930s, The King’s Speech tells of Prince Albert who suffers from insecurity and stammering. And unorthodox speech therapist and his supportive wife do his best to help him but soon more problems arise – his older brother refuses to become King to marry a divorced American and the self-doubting Prince Albert becomes King George VI who must now must overcome his stammering to rally his nation in the war against Nazi Germany.
The King’s Speech is a wonderfully entertaining and touching movie that tells a story that is both simple and grand, private and public. Tom Hooper tells this story in a very simple and old-fashioned way and The King’s Speech is certainly no revolutionary achievement in style but everything in it wonderfully serves the main aspect – the screenplay. From the costumes to the art direction to the score, everything beautifully and discreetly underlines the main plot and comes from the background to highlight the foreground. In the foreground, The King’s Speech is most of all an actor’s movie – and they all deliver. In the center is Colin Firth, giving a first-class performance as the stammering and unconfident man who is suddenly thrown into a life that was not meant for him. It’s a beautiful and extremely moving portrayal that deservedly took home the Oscar. Matching him is Geoffrey Rush, giving a performance that constantly shifts between flamboyant and subtle, and provides the movie’s most amusing moments. Helena Bonham Carter has a more quiet part that could easily get lost behind Firth and Rush but she, too, gives a powerful performance that gets the most out of her clichéd part. Besides these three main actors, the rest of the cast is also delivering wonderful performances.
The King’s Speech mostly gets its advantages from following the character of Prince Albert overcoming his fear and stammering to rise to the occasion of a difficult time. It’s a story that easily inspires the viewer but could also turn extremely kitschy with just a few wrong steps. But The King’s Speech thankfully doesn’t take any wrong steps and constantly keeps an atmosphere that both entertains and touches the viewer without overdoing it in any direction. It’s a movie that finds just the right tone for small themes like friendship, loyalty and love and big themes like war and the change of history. Maybe it’s all old-fashioned – but it’s still done extremely well.