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The King’s Speech (2010) ****

December 25, 2010

Written by: David Seidler

Produced by: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, and Gareth Unwin

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Rated R for some language

118 min.

U.S. Release Date: December 10, 2010 (limited)


After delivering a career performance in Tom Ford’s A Single Man last year, Colin Firth is back in The King’s Speech as King George VI of Britain during the time when he transitions from the Duke of York to King after a series of unlikely events.  In another installment of what seems like an endless line of year-end award dark horse films about British history (see The Queen, or An Education), The King’s Speech documents the trials of King George VI as he leads a country on the brink of war, and while he battles crippling stuttering problems that bar him from public speech.  Though this film is receiving loads of critical success, will movie-going audiences take as much pleasure in this slow-going British historical document?

 

 

 

The King’s Speech tells the story of the man who became King George VI (Colin Firth), the father of Queen Elizabeth II.  After his father, King George V (Michael Gambon), passes away, his brother (Guy Pearce) assumes the throne and becomes King Edward VIII.  The role of King is not something that is attractive to Edward, so he makes the unprecedented move of relinquishing his throne to his brother Albert.  Albert is thrust into the position of King, just as England is getting into World War II.  George reluctantly assumes the throne, mostly due to severe insecurities surrounding an uncontrollable stammer.  Plagued by this speech impediment since he was a small boy, he is considered by many to be unfit of the throne.  In attempts to conquer his stutter, George employs the help of an eccentric speech pathologist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).  Through a set of unorthodox techniques, Lionel and George’s relationship flourishes just as George is tasked with a series of landmark radio speeches to boost national morale.

 

Though it’s beginning to be a cliché in these year-end historical British films, the acting is spectacular across the board.  Colin Firth’s representation of a plagued stutterer is engaging and sympathetic.  As he is stopped mid-sentence by his impediment and gives a look of panic, the viewer cannot help but feel for George as he sits in terrified silence.  Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as Queen Elizabeth, George’s wife, is charming and easily the most “normal” role Carter has portrayed in years.  Also, Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of George’s speech therapist Lionel is remarkable.  Lionel pushes the boundaries of propriety with the Duke who becomes King and charms George, and the audience, along the way.  I would not be shocked if Firth and Rush both won acting Oscars this February.

 

 

Visually, The King’s Speech is composed beautifully, as classic buildings of the Royal Family are examined as well as other various British cityscapes.  The overlying musical score and the camera work in perfect concert, as if shooting a music video.  Each camera shot is handled so delicately, as if to emphasize the delicacy of George’s speech patterns.

 

 

Overall, The King’s Speech will widely go down as one of the best films of 2010, a claim to which I wholeheartedly agree.  From the memorable performances to the crisp visual style, you’ll be hard pressed to find a handful of better films this year.  If it is playing in your area, get out to the theater during your time off and see The King’s Speech.

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