THE KING'S SPEECH received a lot of early buzz for Colin Firth's performance as King George VI, but it's been gaining a lot more momentum lately as a possible Best Picture contender. Both are absolutely valid. In his latest effort, Tom Hooper has created something that is at once beautifully acted, cleverly written and stunningly filmed. THE KING'S SPEECH is at the top of the heap in what is gearing up to be a fairly competitive awards season.
My pick for 2009's Best Performance was Colin Firth for his work in A SINGLE MAN. He fell short to Jeff Bridges at all the major awards ceremonies, but he was widely considered first-runner up. That, coupled with the fact that his turn as the stutter-inflicted royal is almost as good as that performance, makes him a pretty good bet for this year's top accolades. Firth's take on King George's stutter is solid and frustrating to behold; he is soft-spoken, yet strong and at times quite fierce. An talented ensemble cast accompanies Firth including Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall and the always-excellent Geoffrey Rush.
Hooper paints an atmospheric picture of the years preceding WWII and instead of relying on straight-forward filmmaking for this rather straight-forward story, he implements fog-filled locations and unconventional angles and shots to create something that is visually rich. Never once does the film feel dull or slow as a movie about speech therapy might. Hooper helps us see the bigger picture. King George doesn't need to overcome his speech impediment simply for the sake of self-improvement and increased confidence; in the age of radio with news reels on the rise, his presence as Britain's figurehead is important to the course of history. Firth's final speech (of the title) is chill inducing as it must have been for those listening on as the words were originally spoken.