Everyone loves an underdog, right? Well, Colin Firth, who was nominated last year for 'A Single Man,' stars as King George VI, a shy man with a stutter who was never expected to become the King of England. Bullied by his family and others around him, he suddenly finds himself in the spotlight after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicates. It's more important than ever that he get over his speech impediment and fast -- not just that his duties as king obviously include speaking publicly but because Britain is on the verge of declaring war on Germany and he must rally the public for the cause.
After numerous therapists fail at helping him get over his stutter, his wife hires Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist who uses a combination of methods to help his patients. Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, not only helps the new king overcome his speech impediment using techniques that go far beyond breathing exercises, but he becomes friends with the shy King and helps him gain the confidence he desperately needs.
There are plenty of things in 'Speech' to appeal to the Oscar voter. It's a period piece about the inner workings of the British monarchy, and, more importantly, about the vulnerability of those in power. Like I said, everyone loves an underdog who overcomes and thrives in his or her new milieu, but even more so when it's someone who is in a position of great power. Showing the humanity of Queen Elizabeth II was part of the appeal of 'The Queen.' Who can forget the scene where she walks, deep in thought, accompanied by her precious Corgis?
Firth is an excellent actor, as is Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter made her name in period pieces like 'The Wings of The Dove' and 'A Room With a View.' Firth has proved himself to be one of the finest actors of his generation, and one might argue that Oscar voters like to reward actors not for a particular role but because it's their "time" or because they were overlooked in the past. Plus, 'The King's Speech' is not too heavy, it's got its funny/kooky moments, and it ends on an inspirational note. What's not to like? From our review:
he King's Speech skillfully executes a familiar plot – and the plot itself, it should be said, is nothing to sneeze at. The mechanics of the way Bertie and Logue attack the former's elocution problem are entertaining and often very funny. Rush and Firth are great fun together, Rush's confident Australian irreverence is a perfect foil for Firth's aristocratic, prim-and-proper repression."
Although there's no scientific proof that winning at TIFF means a direct road to the Kodak Theatre, there is certainly a precedent. Just a few examples of festival winners that got little gold men include 'Precious,' 'Slumdog Millionaire,' 'Crash,' 'Hotel Rwanda,' and 'American Beauty.'
Plus, the timing of the festival means it's a bit like testing grounds for studios that are prepping to unleash their Oscar season offerings in full force. Despite the company's financial troubles, The Weinstein Company has plenty Oscar winners and contenders under its belt, and it's been grooming 'The King's Speech' for an Oscar campaign for quite some time now. With a bang-up cast, a respected director (Tom Hooper, 'The Damned United,'), and the critics behind it, 'The King's Speech' all adds up to a film that is perfectly suited to Oscar voters' tastes.