No.181 (2/11/11)

The King's Speech

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Director Tom Hooper's film gThe King's Speechh tells the story of Albert, the Duke of York and eventually, King George VI (played by Colin Firth), as he struggles to overcome a severe stammer with the help of an unorthodox speech coach (played by Geoffrey Rush) during the years leading up to World War II.

The film opens in 1925, at the British Empire Exhibition held in Wembley Stadium, where Prince Albert is about to address the public. His stammering speech, which has been with him since childhood, manifested itself to his embarrassment and to the unsettled crowdfs bewilderment.

Eventually, after failed attempts to correct the impediment, and at the behest of his wife Elizabeth, Albert (or Bertie, as hefs referred to by family) consults with local speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush), an Australian living in London who, in his personal time, pursues stage acting.

The first meeting between Bertie and Lionel doesn't go very well, given Lionelfs eccentric manner and peculiar rules during their sessions. Over time, however, they begin to see real progress in remedying the future Kingfs speaking ability, just in time for the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

Colin Firth is at his best as Bertie, the lonely, socially awkward Duke of York who eventually becomes King George VI after his brother, who was made King Edward VIII upon the passing of their father King George V, abdicates in order to marry the woman he loves. At times, Firth comes across stuffy, regal, clearly a product of the character's upbringing and environment. At other times, when hefs alone with Lionel, we see a somewhat morose person, someone who recognizes that he is unable to fully relate to normal people and doesn't have many friends. And still, at other times, Firth displays the command and assertiveness that he would need in his role as the head of the British Royal Family.

Geoffrey Rush almost steals the show as Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist and struggling stage actor. His character's journey is reminiscent of the John Lennon quote, gLife is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans,h as Lionel is shown struggling to be cast in local theater productions. All of the time he's invested in ridding Bertie of his impediment pays off during the king's 1939 declaration of war with Germany, what turns to be the most touching scene in the entire movie. The applause the King receives at the end from the masses gathered outside Buckingham Palace is silently enjoyed by Lionel in the background, in an interesting parallel with his struggles to perform in front of an audience in a similar manner.

Tom Hooper's direction is very measured and offbeat for a historical piece. Most shots are indoors, with lots of empty space around the characters, perhaps in an effort to visually reinforce Albertfs loneliness and detachment. Hooper crafted what feels like a very authentic period piece, where the clothes, sets, and backgrounds feel very natural. The screenplay, written by David Seidler, also feels very natural, creating a very believable environment in which the characters exist, and builds subtly to a very satisfying ending. The film is rated R for language, though there is very little actual swearing in the film, other than a few comical scenes during speech therapy.

The King's Speech, which debuted in the U.S. November 26, 2010, has received numerous awards and nominations, and will most likely continue to receive nominations and accolades as the film awards season continues on.

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