Sometimes a film does whatever it can to not bore an audience. Sometimes a film does the bare minimum to keep the audience entertained. The King’s Speech is a wonderful example of the latter, pleasantly meandering across the plateau of trite amusement and merriment. It is not a film that embellishes the facts with absurd characters, flashy theatrics, or a myriad of quirky one-liners or running gags. It sticks to the art of realism and letting the audience pick apart what’s true or false within the words coming out of the actors’ mouths. There’s a magnificent attention to the tone of each scene, reflected upon the mannerisms of the characters—requiring further preciseness to each minute movement. Not one dedicated to those who look for immediate and spectacular gratification, The King’s Speech is a triumph of careful, meticulous planning and shaping, bit by repetitive bit.
Hence the first real flaw of the movie: it does not grab. It does not grope, secure, fasten, or clench the viewer by the face and slam it to the nearest concrete wall. Very rarely does the atmosphere of a scene wander from unnerving cringe or bittersweet sorrow. Even so, there’s a complacency that remains even with the most abrupt of outbursts, whether positive or negative, that makes it all feel diluted. Not to delude the reader into believing the film doesn’t change its tone, as each scene has a number of deeper things playing in the background, popping their heads at just the right moment. Happiness, sadness, uneasiness, tragedy, comedy, irony, triumph; all present at some point or another. What makes it so troubling is the lack of impact one could have as the movie goes forward. Perhaps a character doesn’t stand out or one misses the point of an action or sequence—without these things working altogether, one could find the experience irrevocably underwhelming.
Perhaps one could sense some manner of elitism embodying the film. A sort of snobby approach to telling a story that doesn’t seek to enthrall its audience with frivolous extremities. The act of looking deeper, putting forth the need to dig and to analyze while one watches to see the full effect of a movie’s worth as a story or value of entertainment. A movie that spites the explosions and sappy monologues of stereotypical Hollywood by suppressing itself to the point where it openly mocks the standard. While appealing to some, there’s definitely some point of a limited demographic when recommending The King’s Speech, something that cannot be saved by any form of story, acting, or musical accompaniment. As much credit as one can give, there will always be a distinction this film carries that makes it more (or less, depending on the person) than just another movie.
No hyperbole, the acting within the film is nothing short of spectacular. With all the pressure of executing at the highest level to match the tone of the film, ironically embodying one of the key themes of the film, Firth, Carter, and Rush do a fantastic job with their roles. Firth in particular plays with the stutter and stammer of the soon-to-be King to riotous heights, allowing the deeper meanings to play with the words and behavior of his character. The intrigue of the character goes as far as the relation the audience can have with Firth’s appearance. The number of times where he seems close to tears over his insecurity with his stutter, along with the defensive mechanisms shown through his stubbornness and inability to open up to people makes him an overwhelmingly compelling character study. He sells it beautifully, not holding back a single ounce of raw emotional constipation. Firth himself carries the movie further than it could possibly imagine.
Carter and Rush do well with what they have, but don’t have many opportunities to lead a scene. Carter has a nice spunk to her character that makes her feel more than just a side supporter, despite being exactly her role. Perhaps she could’ve had more of a purpose, though what that could be, not many know. Rush is a bit of a mixed bag, with a lot of charisma to his whimsical character. There’s an emphasis on his character being the voice of reason as well as a doting therapist. He has a good relationship with his friends, family, and patients, along with being relatively secure about his position, despite his desire for bigger and more artistic endeavors. To a fault, there’s a sense of him being too perfect, with a number of scenes revolving around him being bigger than that of Firth’s broken character, always controlling the conversation and providing insight in charming anecdotes and experiments. The one situation where he oversteps his bounds, he realizes it upon some thought and immediately faults himself, making him both aware of his own humanity as well as already adding to his beacon of light persona. Rush does enough to make the character likable and witty, but the character itself feels too much along the lines of Fairy Godmother to praise the movie for never embellishing its nonfiction cast.
Along with storytelling, another aspect of The King’s Speech that helps garner some impact is the placement of the camera. Oftentimes, the angle of a shot will show a character not in the middle of a shot, but veering off to the left or right, especially in situations they’re uncomfortable in. It shows a slight attention to the isolation of the characters and their emotional instability, constantly sliding, little by little, away from the center of attention and control. Most of this applies to Firth’s character, though others often have some interesting still-shots. The camera also tends to make the background out of focus, showing only the people in detail, and most often alone. Things that scare or irritate the characters also appear further or bigger than they actually are, magnifying the events that are to unfold or the inner battle these people face confronting them. Little things like this make the events feel bigger than simple shots would make them seem.
There also existed some emphasis on musical score, spiced along with scenes where the mood was heavily compressed. Silly scenes of montages were accompanied by piano medleys that give off a feeling of mirth (and in one case, ironic discomfort). Major scenes that challenge the characters were met with complete silence, mostly, along with serious conversations between two people. The final scene had an uplifting, orchestral build-up of sound that led to a “triumph” of sorts. The emphasis of singing was brought up to confront the fear of speaking and to let go of the burdens one faces in relation to their inner struggles. Music was the factor that got “Bertie” to see his potential in the first place. There’s a factor of music and the way it plays with one’s expectations that does well enough to factor into the depth of the story, adding to an already enjoyably swift experience. It’s a rare occasion when the music ends up being just as important to a film not focused on the genre of music as the characters and narrative it follows.
Beneath all that The King’s Speech has to offer is but a simple moral message, one that is commonly found in children’s stories as opposed to rated-R films dedicated to re-enacting history. A theory that all life matters, and that the basic human necessity of love and acceptance is not to be underestimated. Despite what monumental task it takes to absorb all that lies underneath, the result is but a fundamental simplicity, something that many other films and TV shows attempt to balance a number of other ways. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be emotionally pungent or constantly reminding of its core themes. Sometimes, it just needs to give it the proper care one would expect people to give others on a mutual basis.
It only feels appropriate that this film has garnered so many awards in the past for its achievements. It is not without flaws, but with them a fantastic piece of quality and entertainment through effort and love of the triumphant human spirit. There’s snippets of wonderment available for most movie-goers, while crafting the bulk of the story in a smooth and easy-to-follow manner that makes it accessible to most. Those with keen eyes are sure to find what makes The King’s Speech more than just a nice movie, with a number of different things that make the film feel theatrically important to the medium as well as insightful to those with stony hearts. Best, perhaps not, but certainly one of the better pictures in the last decade.
Final Score: 8.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found on my IMDb account.
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