The King’s Speech: A BAFTA breakdown

Posted on February 17, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a lack of awards chatter on the blog this year.  This is for two reasons. Firstly, having written posts the last two years I’m not sure there’s anything new I can bring to the party when it comes to debating the differences in the British and American voting systems; and secondly, I’ve been completely useless at getting to the cinema since I started my new degree and so have seen very few of the nominated films

Last night however, I finally managed to get myself to Leicester Square again for a long overdue appointment with The King’s Speech. As one of the last people in the universe to see this film, I thought rather than write you a straight review repeating what everyone has already said about how this really is a groundbreaking piece of cinema, I’d break it down in terms of last week’s BAFTA sweep, with one eye on the coming Oscars at the same time.  Kind of two birds with one stone.

Best Film (and Outstanding British Film)

Well, this one is a bit of a no brainer.  The King’s Speech is not a film I would ordinarily seek out, but the trailers caught my eye and once the critics started going insane about it I knew I had to get to the cinema.  I think the best thing about this film is the way it focusses a very down to Earth problem in an impossibly ostentatious setting.  Not being able to express yourself is one of the most frustrating feelings, and combatting that as someone who is supposed to speak for the nation is a very strong starting point for a story.  It could have worked just as well as a film about a normal man with a stammer, but the fact that he is a kind of second-choice King brings a grounded humanity to the character which has the audience really rooting for him.  It’s a testament to both the direction and the performances (more on that later) that we can feel a connection with a family who are as far removed from the common man in the cinema as you can possibly get.

An undeniably deserving BAFTA win, but I’m not sure it’ll repeat the success at the Oscars.  I’d like it to, but I have a feeling True Grit or The Social Network might take it.

Original Screenplay

It’s a very British screenplay: filled with emotion but in an incredibly understated way that suits the tone of the film perfectly.  There are some, now infamous, scenes which will probably stick in the collective memory for a long time, but some of the more subtle moments are what gives this film its class.  Two particular moments for me were when Bertie (if Lionel can call him that so can I!) is coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to become King, and the final scene where he delivers his speech.  That last movement is so wrought with tension it shows just how much we’ve invested in the characters.

As far as the Oscars go, I can’t call this one.

Original Music-Alexandre Desplat

I’d spotted this win before I went so I was keeping one ear on the music while I watched.  It’s a gracefully understated score, with simple piano and strings mirroring the drama in a totally non-invasive way.  I’m definitely going to have a listen to it again now that I’ve seen the film to properly admire the work that went into it. He’s in with a shot at the Oscars, but Zimmer might just beat him to it.

Supporting Actor-Geoffrey Rush

For me, Rush very nearly steals the film out from underneath Firth.  He is instantly likeable and wonderfully down to Earth.  His complete lack of reverence for the monarch is fantastic, and r elatable in our increasingly non-royalist culture.

I went in expecting to see a knock out performance from Firth, but Rush really surprised me.  I shouldn’t have been shocked really, he’s always good in eveerything he does.  I really hope he gets the recognition he deserves at the Oscars.  If he doesn’t I think it might go to Bale.

Supporting Actress-Helena Bonham-Carter

I can go either way with Helena Bonham-Carter.  I’m never quite sure what I think of her but she tends to be better than I expect her to be.  That’s definitely true in this case. She gives an very strong performance with just the right amount of dry wit and tenderness.  I think she’s got serious competition from Hailee Steinfeld at the Oscars but I’m glad she got the British award for a classically British character.

Leading Actor-Colin Firth

Well, this is what everyone is talking about isn’t it?  In the last few years, Colin Firth has remembered that he is an actor and a very good one at that.  He’s finally got out from under the shadow of the RomComs and Mr Darcy and started making films where he gets to play someone other than the uptight Englishman.

His portrayal of King George feels like it is coming from someone who really knows the man.  He shows both the sensitivity and the strength in his character as well as capturing the exasperation of someone who has a lot to say but cannot say it.  It’s a very respectful depiction, but it’s fearless enough to show him as a human being rather than an untouchable.

He’s in with a very good chance at the Oscars. And I really hope he wins, because he deserves it.


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2 Responses to “The King’s Speech: A BAFTA breakdown”

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You best start believin in stories about kings who stutter, Miss Bonham Carter…. youre in one!

LOL. The first thing I did when he came on screen was go, “Captain Barbossa!!”


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