Oscar Profile: The King’s Speech
by Tom Ingram
The story of King George the sixth is well known by everyone in any Commonwealth country. His brother became king when George V died, but he was forced to abdicate due to marital issues. George VI led the Commonwealth through World War II, which turned out to be a good idea given Edward VIII’s Nazi tendencies. He famously refused to run off to Canada for safety during the war, remaining in Buckingham Palace where all the bombing was going on. As much as I’m not a fan of the monarchy, he was an important figurehead for several nations at a pivotal time in history.
What isn’t as well-known is that he had a major speech impediment, something of a difficulty for such a prominent public figure. In The King’s Speech, his father remarks that with the advent of radio the British royalty have become the lowest of all creatures: actors. He tries several speech therapists to no avail. They use bizarre and frightening methods like having him read aloud with a mouth full of marbles. It is only when his wife makes a surreptitious last-ditch search that she discovers Lionel Logue, our hero, the roguishly unorthodox Australian speech therapist.
What follows is fodder for a good buddy movie. Prince Albert/King George is a British royal, with all the ridiculous uptightness that implies. Logue is a down-and-out Australian actor. He demands absolute equality within the confines of his consultation room, refers to the king as Bertie, and implies that he doesn’t trust Bertie to pay back the shilling he owes from a bet. He genuinely and honestly treats Bertie’s condition, but seems to especially relish the parts where Bertie has to do something embarrassing.
But the movie isn’t just about having fun and unstuffing shirts. It portrays the inner struggle of the king and his fight to assert himself to a world that thinks he’s always uncertain. While he never eradicated his stutter, he brought it under his control, making it something that belongs to him rather than something that controls him. While he likes to have a bit of fun now and then, Logue is behind his student one hundred percent.
The King’s Speech has the most nominations this year, with twelve. It’s up for:
- Best Picture
- Best Director (Tom Hooper)
- Best Actor (Colin Firth as Prince Albert/King George)
- Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue)
- Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon)
- Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler)
- Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)
- Best Sound Mixing
- Best Art Direction
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costume Design
- Best Film Editing
Based on what I’ve seen so far, The King’s Speech is without question my choice for Best Picture. It’s an entertaining mix of comedy and historical drama that is very smartly made. It doesn’t hurt that it pushes a couple of favourite Academy buttons, either.
For acting, both Rush and Firth did excellent jobs, and they both deserve their awards. Helena Bonham Carter did well, too, but she had a much less prominent role in the movie and it’s easy to forget her entirely. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t Oscar-level. Besides, I’ve already thrown in my support for Jacki Weaver.
The writing was similarly excellent. I’m thinking that either The King’s Speech or Inception deserves to win, but for right now I’m reserving judgment on which one.
The score was nothing all that special. It’s up against heavyweights like Hans Zimmer, and I don’t think it has much of a chance even if it deserved to win. The costume design was very good, deliciously capturing the spirit of the era. I think it will probably win the Oscar in that category, given that it’s a big budget historical film, and it definitely deserves to.
I have a good feeling overall about this movie. If it doesn’t take home the Oscar, it’ll be a major snub. I certainly hope that when people are looking back at the movies of the early twenty-first century, The King’s Speech is the standard we’re judged on.