“The King’s Speech” is a brilliant and compelling film directed by Tom Hooper, helmer of the Emmy Award winning HBO series “John Adams.” In this very well-acted account of the future King George VI’s (Colin Firth) struggle with stammering, we follow him as he and his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) search for a cure. This arduous task entailed calling upon many a specialist. One such speech therapist suggested Albert (as he was called at the time) smoke as it “calms the nerves and builds confidence.” Needless to say, this approach proved to be useless.
By this time, the heir to the throne was at his wit’s end. Tired of wasting time and money on specialists who could not help him, Albert informs his spouse he’s done. No more doctors. But being a caring wife, one who knew in her heart her husband could conquer this major hurdle; she seeks the help of an unconventional speech therapist from Australia named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Different from the other therapists Albert had seen, Lionel refused to treat and address Albert as royalty. Instead of Prince Albert or Your Highness, Logue called him by the family nickname, Bertie.
With Lionel’s persistence and unusual style of coaching, as the movie progresses it is made very clear when the stammering began and why it continued. Much of it had to do with Albert’s father’s (Michael Gambon) impatience with him and the preferential treatment toward his older brother Edward VIII (Guy Pierce) by a nanny. Albert does not feel he is worthy to be king, but unfortunately for him, he is forced to wear the crown when his philandering brother relinquishes it.
I was drawn into “The King’s Speech” the very moment Firth graced the screen because I empathized with him immediately. Since he researched the part for weeks beforehand, his performance felt real and honest. When you see him, you will feel his inner struggle. You will see his fears. Most of all you will root for him to over come his demons.
As for Helena Bonham Carter in this — she was wonderful. I’ve been yearning for her to break free from Tim Burton so she could return to her “A Room With A View” roots and she definitely does so here. Her portrayal of the Queen Mother is delicate, elegant and strong. Even though she doesn’t have much screen time, you’d never realize it, as she is very present in every scene she is in.
Geoffrey Rush continues to be spot on every time. Yet again he vanishes into his character completely. At times, I even found him to be adorable. But what makes this film worth it ultimately are the exchanges between Firth and Rush, then of course the final scene, which is brilliantly shot and engulfed perfectly by Beethoven’s Sympony No. 7.
The screenplay by David Seidler — who was once a stutterer himself — is solid, as you will note by the splendid dialogue. The score by Alexander Desplat is excellent and the Dan Cohen’s cinematography is both beautiful and gritty depending on the scene.
After the credits rolled, I left the theater uplifted. I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment of the film. Although Colin Firth was only an actor portraying a king in “The King’s Speech,” in my mind he is royalty. And maybe the Academy will award him with what is considered the highest honor come February.
“The King’s Speech” is in theaters now.
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