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Movie Review: ‘The King’s Speech’

December 23, 2010

History and movie buffs alike should be thrilled with The King’s Speech, an exemplary film with all the trappings of a serious award contender. Impeccably cast and skillfully directed, the film started getting buzz when it debuted at the Toronto International film festival in September, and it has shown no signs of slowing down.

The film tells the (true) story of Prince Albert, who unexpectedly found himself taking the position of King George VI when his older brother relinquished the crown due to a scandalous relationship in 1936.

Albert (Colin Firth) was afflicted with a horrible stutter for his entire life. If he is to be King, public speaking will be the norm, yet the very thought of delivering a speech makes his blood run cold with fear. Escalating his personal crisis is the possibility of war.

He will have to deliver a speech that will inspire, reassure, and rally his kingdom all at the same time.  How can he convey all those things  to his subjects when all they will notice is the stutter?

Enter eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who is somewhat of a last resort for the King after he has exhausted all other options. Lionel immediately earns the scorn of the King by refusing to treat him differently from other clients. He unabashedly calls the King “Bertie”,  a nickname that has been bestowed on him by his intimate circle.

He  insists that the King come to his office just everyone else.  There is no coddling or acquiescing on Logue’s part, which is probably why Logue ultimately succeeded, where so many other speech therapists had failed before him. He’s also very unconventional in his treatment methodology.

The two men develop a lifelong friendship, and over the years the King came to view Logue as an equal, despite his inferior social standing.  During one of their sessions, the King confesses that he was only presented to his parents once a day by the nanny for a “viewing.”   The nanny would always pinch his arm so that he would be fussy, thus he was his parents least favorite child.  Logue is humbled and saddened by this confession.  Truly, royalty is not all it is cracked up to be.

The two actors solidly anchor the film.  Firth was superb in A Single Man last year, and he follows that up with this performance of a man who evolves from a frightened, reluctant King to a true, confidant leader within the span of the film.  Geoffrey Rush is an old pro who slips into his role with ease.

Helena Bonham Carter is the supportive Queen.  She never gives up on her husband, but she doesn’t pander to him because of his disability. Until her husband lays claim to his confidence, she wears the pants in the family.

Screenwriter David Seidler struggled with a stutter himself, and I’ve no doubt that contributes greatly to the film’s authenticity.  The story is infused with warmth, humor, and heartache. It’s the perfect uplifting story for the Holiday season.

Rating 4.5/5

The King’s Speech is rated R for profanity (which only takes place in one scene). Directed by Tom Hooper, screenplay by David Seidler.  Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.


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