Just as with any other good presentation, The King’s Speech uses multiple strategies to win over its audience. The first ploy is an appeal to patriotism: You don’t have to be a British subject to choose sides in a film about World War II. The second strategy is to charm the pants off of you. In this regard, the movie has an unbeatable combo in the odd couple portrayed by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
Firth stars as (the eventual) King George VI, a decent man suffering from a debilitating speech disorder. He stutters. Through his wife (Helena Bonham Carter), George engages Lionel Logue (Rush), an eccentric Aussie with peculiar – though possibly effective – vocal techniques.
The King’s Speech is an actors’ showcase. The verbal and social jousting between Firth and Rush is at the heart of the film, and when the two of them are sequestered in an office, experimenting with everything from recorded music to profanity-laced tirades, the movie is at its best. It is Pygmalion in reverse, with commoner Lionel wielding power over blue-blooded George.
Looming in the background is all manner of social turmoil, including World War II, the abdication of George’s brother, the feckless Edward VIII, and the Great Depression. Director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler try their damndest to link these monumental events to George’s personal struggle, but no matter how hard you try, and the filmmakers certainly do, you can’t gussy up a five-minute radio address to the same dramatic effect as, say, an invasion of Omaha Beach. It is still just a five-minute radio address.
The King’s Speech is a small movie, often amusing but not very profound. Despite Hooper’s attempts to make us sweat the fate of England, the overriding impression is that there is just one thing at stake: George’s self-esteem. Grade: B
Director: Tom Hooper Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Robert Portal, Richard M. Dixon Release: 2010
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