Long live 'The King's Speech'



Article Published: Jan. 27, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Long live 'The King's Speech'

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter star in 'The King's Speech.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

Splendid performances, a heartwarming story and expert presentation make "The King's Speech" one to be remembered.

Blending comedy and drama into a seamless work of period storytelling, director Tom Hooper (HBO's "John Adams") achieves near perfect balance, crafting a film that works in all the right ways.

"Speech" has "feel good" written all over it, and the best part: It's anything but contrived.

It's a buddy movie at heart, but with a most unconventional pairing that puts a refreshing spin on the genre, thanks considerably to award-caliber performances from Colin Firth ("A Single Man") and Geoffrey Rush ("The Life and Death of Peter Sellers").

Based on the true story of Britain's King George VI's (Firth) rise to the throne, "Speech" opens when the World War II monarch is still Albert, the Duke of York.

Ever since he can remember, Albert (or Bertie, as his family members call him) has suffered from a heavy stammer that stymies his public speaking and wreaks havoc on his public image.

With radio rapidly growing in popularity, Bertie and wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, "Alice in Wonderland"), realize that broadcasted speeches are inevitable. They consult numerous speech therapists and so-called experts to no avail, until encountering Lionel Logue (Rush), a roguish Australian with an unorthodox take on therapy.

To take the Duke of York as a patient, Lionel insists they meet as equals, even to the point of calling him "Bertie" rather than "Your Royal Highness." His methods are met with skepticism by Bertie and Elizabeth, but neither can argue with their effectiveness.

As the sessions continue and Bertie sees improvement, the two forge an unlikely friendship, bridging the class divide and growing to respect each other as people.

This relationship is stressed, though, when Bertie's brother, King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce, "L.A. Confidential"), is set to abdicate the throne to marry a twice-divorced American woman (Eve Best, Showtime's "Nurse Jackie").

This would thrust Bertie onto the throne, a duty he feels unready to assume without being able to confidently speak in public, and Lionel's advice, though well-meaning, is taken as an affront.

But as heir, Bertie hasn't a choice in the matter. Further, he's obligated to speak at his ascension ceremony. And with England on the brink of war with Germany, he'll also have to deliver a landmark radio address, both of which mean he and Lionel must come to terms with their differences if either are to succeed.

Firth and Rush are simply brilliant in their roles, bringing a distinct sense of humanity to the unlikeliest of friends. They're so convincing that it's nigh on impossible not to become emotionally invested in these characters, making the film's finale - naturally involving a speech - seem like the Super Bowl of public speaking.

They're bolstered by a fine supporting cast, including the likes of Carter, Pearce, Derek Jacobi ("Gladiator") and Michael Gambon ("The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"), making for a well-rounded, character-driven film that's likeable from the get-go.

A royal flush of Oscar nominations also doesn't hurt, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Firth), Best Supporting Actor (Rush), Best Supporting Actress (Carter), Best Director (Hooper) and Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler), to name a few.

"The King's Speech," rated R for some language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

MovieTimes continues on page 36.

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