Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CST does the Oscars: The King's Speech

As "Oscar season" winds down, Clevelanders whose first loves include the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians may be reluctant to run out and see an English arthouse movie about royalty seven decades ago.  Especially with the gag reflex that may involuntarily rise up every time they hear the phrase "The King's Speech."

But I can assure you, this film is no self-congratulatory, tone deaf celebration of ego.  And there's certainly no Jim Gray in this production.

Instead, what director Tom Hooper has created is nothing short of wonderful.

The film is about Albert, Duke of York, and his work with speech pathologist Lionel Logue as he struggles to overcome his severe stammering problem.  The relationship between British royalty and Australian commoner is touching, relatable, and somehow gets the audience to root for a blueblood like "Bertie," as Lionel insists he call the Duke.  Colin Firth has virtually swept the Best Actor awards leading up to the Oscars, and with good reason.  He gives depth and real humanity to the Duke, from his browbeaten little-brother-prince role through his rise to become to become King George VI (father of the current Queen of England) during the lead up to World War II.  Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel, a cheeky Australian who disarms Albert with his directness and unfamiliar familiarity with the future King, and he's also seen as a frontrunner for an Oscar, in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Some (like our very own SamVox) might think The King's Speech is too slow, too full of drab English characters and not enough witty dialogue.  To be sure, this screenplay is not an Aaron Sorkin creation, however it also commands your rapt attention with its subtle tension throughout.  I found myself moved several times with empathy for the struggles of Albert, and the position of being forced to do something he had no confidence in whatsoever.

I've now seen seven of the ten Best Picture nominees (with hopefully The Fighter and 127 Hours  later this week,) and I gotta say, between the obvious artistry involved in The King's Speech, the wonderful character development, and the emotion the picture evokes, I find it hard to believe any other film will top it this year.