The King's Speech has already received laurels a-plenty which has a lot to do with its cast: they are indeed splendid, including many fine actors in tiny roles who get a couple of lines each (like Claire Bloom, alas). Like so many films now, the background is left enigmatic (well, you know the history, fill in the details yourself, I guess) and only the central actors received development. That really only means Rush and Firth: Helena Bonham Carter is reduced to appearing with corgis and going "there, there" on occasion (AKA a MWW masquerading as a MW1W). The direction is bizarre at times, especially in the first half hour, with angles that take you out of the narrative wondering where on earth the camera is supposed to be. Worse, in the set-up scene between the Prince-soon-to-be-King and the Aussie therapist, the camera work is so bad as to make it look like they're both gazing off into space rather than talking to each other. What really makes the film fall flat is the overwrought ambiance, from the overplayed music to the mountain-out-of-a-molehill plot. Yes, as someone once crippled by the thought of public speaking and who overcame it, I know what a trial it can be for people, but to have someone who treated men just back from Gallipoli call the pampered royal "the bravest man I've ever known" (as do half the people in the film) is just ridiculous hyperbole. If you love Firth, you'll still enjoy it, I guess.
The real star is Hailie Steinfeld. Like Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, here's a young woman who more than capably carries the film flanked by powerhouse actors who might easily intimidate many a seasoned performer. From the get-go Steinfeld strides into town and into the part with all the certainty of the true believer that she is. You believe her, the grudging respect she wins from the men and when her faith falters, you see that she is a child yet and so very young. It's incredible work. For the Coens, this is a bit different from a lot of their work because there's not that distance that allows ironic humor (we have to be able to laugh at Barton Fink's sufferings because they would be too harrowing; A Serious Man walks that razor's edge with dizzying grace). It's a straight-forward adventure. Don't get me wrong; there's humor, but as in Shakespeare's dramas, it's there to give you a breather from the tension. Well done: go see it.