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The King’s Speech Deserving Of Its Praise

The King’s Speech
Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by David Seidler
Weinstein Company, 2010

I was very much prepared to hate The King’s Speech.  I mean, seriously, another British film starring those same actors that are always up for Oscars in yet another masturbatory look into the lives of the royal family.  And every critic has been fawning over it.  You start the backlash early, figuring it will be another pretentious piece of nonsense with some good performances, but the movie sucks balls.  I’ve seen a lot of these type of movies, where critics confuse a movie with good performances as a good movie.  There are movies with great performances that aren’t really great.  I think The King’s Speech definitely shakes that distinction.

The story focuses on the Duke of York, soon to be King George VI (Colin Firth), and a speech impediment that is becoming a problem because world events are thrusting him into the limelight.  His father, King George V (Michael Gambon) is getting old, and his brother, Edward (Guy Pearce), has woman problems: he’s set to marry an American who is about to go through her second divorce, which is something the Church can’t allow should he become King.  Sure enough, the patriarch dies, Edward becomes King, and the messy love life threatens to place his younger brother onto the throne.  His speeches thus far have been a disaster, being unable to get through an entire speech, getting hung-up to the point of being rendered mute.  Radio is becoming a behemoth, entering into all the world’s homes, and speeches like the ones he’s being charged to perform are becoming an important tool for the royal family to reach the hearts and minds of the masses.

The soon-to-be King George VI enlists a variety of speech therapists to help him with his problem, and he’s about to give up until his wife, the woman most of us know as the “Queen Mum,” mother of the current Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), finds a controversial speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who actually brings some progress.  They are running against time, really, because the Duke will soon be King, and Hitler is getting close to being the evil bastard we all love to hate, and England needs a guy who isn’t going to stammer in a time of crisis.  He needs to project strength.  Of course, not only does he have the psychological barrier, but the political one that is making it hard for him to see Logue as an equal, and especially being able to bear the borderline insolence that Logue unwittingly finds himself getting into with his methods.

As you may have seen a time or two, Colin Firth is pretty amazing.  It’s not about the stammer, really, although he shows how frustrating it is and does an incredible job of it.  But he has some really good scenes, especially one where he confides in Logue a childhood that was lonely and abusive.  Hooper frames Firth in such a way that you really feel how lonely his King is; lots of shots where Firth is on the edge of the frame while emptiness resides in the rest of it.  Geoffrey Rush is also, finally, back.  He’s been relegated to movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and bit parts in inconsequential movies for years since his breakthrough in the late nineties.  His character here is exactly the type of guy we like to see Rush play: he’s serious about the work, but playful in his manner, and he’s the perfect guy to break down the psychological and political walls of a King.  I also pretty much adore Helena Bonham Carter and everything she does.  She’s pretty great in this, too.  No surprise.

This movie also doesn’t lose its focus at any time.  It doesn’t meander into subplots.  It’s well-shot and will surely get a cinematography nomination.  It’s a movie, quite frankly, that surprised me.  That’s the day and age we live in when the masses shout, “This is a good movie!” and you can’t believe it until you see it.

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