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Movie Review: 'The King's Speech' destined for Oscar stardom

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“The King's Speech”

Directed by: Tom Hooper
Starring:  Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Colin Firth, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Max Callum, James Currie
Rated: R

Tom Hooper's historical drama, “The King's Speech” might have been called “The Man Who Wouldn't Be King.” It's the emotionally engaging story of England's George VI, the second son of King George V. A second son, Prince Albert, was officially The Duke of York and his older brother, Edward, was in line to ascend the throne.

This was all well and good with Albert (and his wife, Elizabeth.) Albert was happy to be out of the limelight, one reason being he suffered from an emotionally crippling stammering affliction. Kings are expected to give eloquent speeches, and that sort of thing simply wasn't “Bertie's” bailiwick. The advent of radio meant that when someone gave a speech, it was literally heard 'round the world. In 1925, one-quarter of the Earth's population were subjects of the British Empire and the rest of the world was interested in what Britain was doing. This made the task of giving a speech all the more frightening.

Colin Firth hits a career high as Albert/George VI, and he has perfected his stammer to the point of making the viewer uncomfortable for the character and wanting to jump in to finish words and sentences for him. The discomfort on Firth's face and his body language add to the verbal nuances to bring a fully formed character to the screen.

No one has played British royalty with such finesse since Helen Mirren inhabited Elizabeth II (George the VI's daughter) in Stephen Frears' “The Queen.”

Firth will, without question, get an Oscar nomination for the role, and it won't be surprising should the film be nominated for the best picture award. It's already cleaned up at The British Independent Film Awards, with awards for best picture, actor, screenplay, supporting actor and supporting actress, and Firth won a Golden Globe for his performance.
 
“The King's Speech” begins in 1925 with Albert's father on throne. Upon the death of their father, Albert's brother Edward, the man who would be king, renounces the throne in order to marry the woman he loves, a twice divorced American. This type of behavior is decidedly “un-kingly,” but Edward follows his heart.

So it's left to Albert to lead England and become George VI, much to his dismay. With the support of his wife, Elizabeth - played by Helena Bonham Carter - Albert engages the services of a rather unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Geoffrey Rush plays Logue, an out of work Australian actor turned speech teacher and he and Firth make an entirely engaging pair.  At first, Logue is unaware who his latest client really is. When it's revealed, things get a bit complicated. As a commoner, Logue is expected to use proper decorum with the royal highness, but as a therapist he has to get up close and personal. He even suggests the two get on a first name basis. It makes for an interesting relationship.

The other relationship in the film, that between Elizabeth and Albert/George, is touching and deep. Elizabeth is empathetic to her husband's affliction and knows he's a decent man with the potential to be a great leader. Helena Bonham Carter gives her all to the character that most of us (of the right age) remember as England's beloved Queen Mother who passed away in 2002 at the age of 101.

“The King's Speech” is bookended by two speeches. The first is in 1925 when then-Albert is called upon to speak at the opening of the British Empire Exhibition. It's a torturous affair for Albert, Elizabeth, the attendees and in this case, the viewing audience.

The final speech comes in 1939 when Britain is about to engage Adolph Hitler's Germany in what would become World War II. While his speech patterns are far from perfect, this is an obviously transformed Albert, now King George, leading his nation into the “big war.” He rises to the occasion as does Firth in reproducing the speech.

The “R” rating for the film has raised a bit of ire in the film community. There's no sex, no violence, no nudity. The rating is merely the result of 25 uses of the F word. It's not gratuitous usage and hardly seems vulgar when spoken in a British accent. And it's a word that nearly everyone is familiar with. Here, its usage is actually important to the plot inasmuch as therapist Logue utilizes it in getting the King on his way to curing his stammer.

“The King's Speech” is at heart a drama but goes deep into human relationships and has several lighthearted, funny moments. And it's another one of 2010's best films finally making its way onto Springfield screens.
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