The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech

The title of this film is a spoiler, as Colin Firth's character, King George VI, isn't even crowned until the last act, but never mind.

The King's Speech is an entertaining, thoughtful drama about the turmoil Britain's royal family faced in the 1930s, as Albert, Duke of York - "Bertie" to his family - made his unexpected ascent to the throne, in spite of a lifelong stammer that wracked his every painful public announcement. Under the urging of his wife, the future Queen Mum (played with pluck by Helena Bonham Carter), Bertie agrees, with great reluctance, to see Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose unorthodox methods may be the only thing that will ease the duke's fears of public speaking.

Movies about stutterers are often hard to watch (see Rocket Science, or rather don't), but Hooper, Firth, and crew find the line between getting Bertie's impediment across and tiring out the audience with t-t-t-too m-m-m-much of th-th-th-this kind of dialogue. What we get is less of a story about how Logue taught his high-profile client to control his stammer and more of an insight into the rather pitiful life of the future king.

Which isn't to say that The King's Speech is a downer. In fact it's thoroughly enjoyable, thanks to the great onscreen chemistry of Rush and Firth (who has lately re-established himself as a strong leading man after too many dippy romantic comedies) and the crisp dialogue. But the climactic speech itself is something of a MacGuffin: the story instead offers the same behind-closed-royal-doors appeal as 2006's The Queen. If it's a little less intriguing than its predecessor, that's simply the nature of the beast, as we're more invested in the event that we all lived through - Princess Diana's 1997 death and aftermath - while very few of us have any personal recollection of King George VI's famous speech.

But whereas Elizabeth II remains something of a mystery, despite Helen Mirren's skilled work, I feel like I really got to know the noble if frustrated soul of George VI, thanks to Firth's honest characterization and a fine original screenplay by David Seidler, coming into his own after years of penning mediocre TV movies. Hooper - who cut his teeth on TV movies as well - provides clever direction. Well worth watching, especially if you need to see a film with your mom or granny during the holiday season.