Toronto Review: Tom Hooper's Exceptional 'The King's Speech'
by Alex Billington
September 20, 2010
What an exhilarating way to end the festival! My last film of TIFF 2010 was the recently crowned Audience Award winner The King's Speech from director Tom Hooper and damn does it ever deserve that award. I had no clue what to expect going in, and was a bit nervous, but it's one of those wonderful films that in the first few minutes already had me thinking to myself "I'm going to love this." And indeed I did, and that says a lot, as a period piece drama is not usually something I go for. I'm going to make a bold statement - I think The King's Speech is on par with Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan as one of the very best movies of the year.
So what is it about (a question I get asked a lot)? Colin Firth plays England's King George VI, with Helena Bonham Carter as his wife, although at the time he was only the Duke of York, otherwise known as "Bertie" by his family. It's set during the mid-1930s as England is on the brink of war with Nazi Germany. Bertie has a speech impediment and can't speak in public, or to almost anyone at all, without stammering and freezing up. So he is taken to Dr. Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist who helps him overcome this problem in order to, eventually, deliver a very important speech to the British Empire once they do decide to declare war. It's lightly comical in spots, but mostly a superbly crafted period drama.
The King's Speech is not just about the early beginnings of England's entrance in the war; it's not just about George overcoming his speech impediment in order to unite a nation; it's not just about society and life and the monarchy in England; it's not just about the importance of friendship; it's about all of that and so much more. I have never seen a film so beautiful, so elegant, so completely entertaining, so amusing, so riveting, it's unlike anything, yet every scene is a joy to watch. Firth gives the performance of his life-time, and I honestly believe he is going to get the Oscar next year - he damn well deserves one, that's for sure. I even thought Bonham Carter was better than I've seen her in years, and Rush gives a hell of a performance, too.
There is so much I could talk about because I loved every last aspect of The King's Speech - David Seidler's fantastic screenplay, Alexandre Desplat's wonderful score, Tom Hooper's great direction, the unbelievably brilliant scenes of dialogue between Firth and Rush. But one area that I must address is Danny Cohen's cinematography. The way he composes his shots is phenomenal, every last scene is beautiful. There were times, even in the middle of scenes full of dialogue, where I would be sitting in awe, gaping at how stunning such simple shots looked. This is art, not just cinema. He doesn't frame everyone in the middle or even just to one side or another, he uses the colors, the atmosphere, the sets, every detail on the walls and everything around them to bring the entire frame, and subsequently the entire film, to life with a stunning elegance.
It really is not an understatement to say that The King's Speech might be the movie of the year. Everyone else is saying it and I can now join in agreement and praise this fantastic work of art, too. It's certainly going to win some Oscars next year as well. Firth is unquestionably getting it, possibly Seidler for his script, and I would honestly be happy if it won Best Picture - it's that good and it deserves it. After seeing this, the Oscar race has become so much more exciting, because in my opinion Black Swan and The King's Speech are now running neck-and-neck. Anyone who appreciates, admires, and/or enjoys great cinema must see this film.
Alex's Toronto Rating: 10 out of 10