The King's Speech (12A): The IoS review
Firth's stammering monarch is a sh-sh-shoo-in for an Oscar nomination
Sunday 09 January 2011
Yes, it's that time of year again, the midwinter window when film companies release their best hopes for Oscar recognition – and there's no way The King's Speech could have come out at any other time.
A sumptuous historical drama that could be seen as a prequel to The Queen or as a sequel to Mrs Brown, it's set in the years just before and just after the death of George V (Michael Gambon). His elder son David (Guy Pearce) is more interested in a certain American divorcee than he is in "kinging", so David's brother Bertie (Colin Firth) may have to accept what he views as the most poisonous of poisoned chalices. Having lived with a severe stammer since childhood, he thinks of microphones as instruments of torture, but for a monarch in the radio age, there's no avoiding them. As a last resort, his devoted wife (Helena Bonham Carter) takes him to a Harley Street specialist (Geoffrey Rush), even though he's – shudder – an Australian who insists on discussing his clients' – shudder – feelings.
In short, The King's Speech couldn't be a better bet at awards season if the producers handed each voter a brown envelope stuffed with unmarked notes. With more stately homes than the National Trust, and as many respected thesps as the Harry Potter franchise, it's a reassuring tale of love conquering all, of friendship and determination overcoming any disability, and of the privileged being born to rule, just as long as a commoner reminds them to soften their stiff upper lips occasionally.
Still, none of this carping changes the fact that The King's Speech is a delightful film. For a while, David Seidler intended his script to be staged as a play, and while Tom Hooper (The Damned United) keeps the pageantry colourfully cinematic, it has the rich characterisation and the long scenes of odd-couple verbal sparring that you'd expect from a first-rate theatrical two-hander. Bonham Carter is a joy as the tender yet sardonic Elizabeth, and the Oscar-bound Firth is both heart-rending and remarkably funny in his best ever role. It's all done so expertly that you can forgive the film's ultimate message: Britain won the war because a toff gave a halfway competent radio broadcast.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote