Momentous historical events add a remarkable kick to this fascinating personal drama, which is based on journal entries and firsthand accounts. besides being hugely entertaining, the film also gives Colin Firth yet another meaty role to dive into.
In 1925, Bertie (Firth), the Duke of York, is paralysed with fear when required to speak in public. After unsuccessful treatment for his stammer, his wife Elizabeth (Bonham Carter) locates unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush), an Australian who insists on familiarity even with the royals. But as Bertie begins to make progress, his life takes a dramatic turn when his brother Edward VIII (Pearce) abdicates the throne, leaving Bertie in place as George VI just as war breaks out with Germany. Now the nation really needs to hear his voice.
The sharp, often very witty script has the ring of truth to it, refusing to overplay big events or to create some miracle cinematic cure that sees Bertie rising to inspiring orator status. Even though it's still extremely crowd-pleasing, it's a much more complex story centring on the man behind the stutter, exploring the intimate, difficult journey Bertie must have taken before he was so suddenly thrust into the limelight.
As with last year's A Single Man, Firth invests the role with layered subtext that gives Bertie a fully fledged inner life far beyond the astute screenplay.
It's a beautiful performance that tells us as much with a quiet sigh as it does with a razor-sharp line of dialog. His banter with the excellent Rush is also full of substance, while Bonham Carter not only uncannily captures the Queen Mother's physical presence but also the strength of the woman who, together with her husband, would so bravely lead Britain through the Blitz.
Visually, the film transcends the usual costume-drama approach, with expert direction from Hooper that beautifully plays with perspectives and textures.
Also notable is the way the camera quietly captures expansive backdrops that continually remind us (and Bertie) that there's a whole nation out there waiting for his next word. And along the way, we strongly identify with Bertie, which makes his journey takes both stirring and thrillingly inspiring.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 25th December 2010
Box Office USA: $138.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $414.2M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: The Weinstein Company, UK Film Council, Momentum Pictures, Aegis Film Fund, Molinare Investment, FilmNation Entertainment, See-Saw Films, Bedlam Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 226 Rotten: 14
IMDB: 8.1 / 10
Director: Tom Hooper
Producer: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
Screenwriter: David Seidler
Starring: Colin Firth as King George VI, Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, Michael Gambon as King George V, Jennifer Ehle as Myrtle Logue, Derek Jacobi as Archbishop Cosmo Lang, Freya Wilson as Princess Elizabeth, Ramona Marquez as Princess Margaret, Richard Dixon as Private Secretary, Robert Portal as Equerry, Eve Best as Wallis Simpson, Paul Trussell as Chauffeur, Adrian Scarborough as BBC Radio Announcer, Andrew Havill as Robert Wood, Charles Armstrong as BBC Technician, Roger Hammond as Dr. Blandine Bentham, Calum Gittins as Laurie Logue, Dominic Applewhite as Valentine Logue, Ben Wimsett as Anthony Logue, David Bamber as Theatre Director, Jake Hathaway as Willie, Michael Gambon as King George V, Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII, Patrick Ryecart as Lord Wigram, Teresa Gallagher as Nurse, Simon Chandler as Lord Dawson, Claire Bloom as Queen Mary, Orlando Wells as Duke of Kent, Tim Downie as Duke of Gloucester, Dick Ward as Butler, John Albasiny as Footman, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, Danny Emes as Boy in Regent's Park, Anthony Andrews as Stanley Baldwin, John Warnaby as Steward, Roger Parrott as Neville Chamberlain