Review: The King’s Speech

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Film Reviews
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Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's SpeechMany people suffer from a fear of public speaking. The idea of everyone being acutely attuned to everything you say and how you say it can be paralyzing. Luckily, most people are not made to confront this phobia often. However, in a world that increasingly requires personal address by industry leaders, public speaking has become a necessary evil for a variety of occupations. In 1925, the popularity of radios meant country leaders were no longer just ornaments; they were now expected to speak directly to their people – often. For King George VI, this was a terrifying proposition because he had a debilitating stutter – until he met a man who became a lifelong friend.

The King’s Speech is the story of the man who became King George VI (Colin Firth), the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George (a.k.a. ‘Bertie’ to friends and family) must reluctantly assume the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stutter, he was considered unfit to be king. In an attempt to gain the respect of his advisors and people, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war.

Firth delivers an impeccable performance. The emotions Bertie experiences jump from the screen the moment he appears. His conveyance of fear, frustration and fortitude are genuine and often expressed through only his eyes. In addition, the emotional pain his condition causes can be felt thoroughly by the audience. Rush is brilliant, but in a much subtler way. His role is to coax and encourage Bertie, which appropriately leaves him – both the character and actor – just outside the spotlight. Carter has rarely appeared so ordinary of late, but it quite suits her. Her affection and support for Bertie looks very sincere.

Director Tom Hooper is very adept at producing these period pieces, having previously directed John Adams and The Damned United. Here, he masters the overview of one man’s history, displaying significant moments primarily over a two-year period. Nonetheless, we are given a well-rounded view and understanding of Bertie’s relationships, both personal and professional.

Logue’s unconventional methods are peculiar, but logical. However, watching the future king perform these ridiculous exercises, one almost feels embarrassed for him and for spying during these aptly secret sessions. This element, though, does enhance our empathy for Bertie as we watch his determination to improve and his successful progress.

The King’s Speech is an fascinating look at the struggle and triumph of a man who had great potential to be a good king.

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