Oscar Movie Month: "The King's Speech" Review

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Colin Firth stars as King George VI in this award-winning flick from Tom Hooper. With the threat of World War II looming over Britain, George ("Bertie") must overcome a debilitating speech impediment to provide his country with the leadership it requires at the dawn of the communication age. With the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), he's able to use radio to give his country the inspiration it needs. At the same time an unlikely friendship develops between the two men, who appear to be polar opposites in personality.
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Rating: R
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: September 06, 2010
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Genre: Biography / Drama / History

The story of King George VI is a fascinating one, and it is beautifully detailed in the 2010 biopic "The King's Speech." Before his ascent to the throne, Prince Albert had a severe stammer which marred his credibility and confidence. With the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, the prince gradually built his self-esteem before addressing the people of the United Kingdom as their king. The film highlights the relationship that built between Prince Albert and Logue, creating an inspirational story that could only stem from true events.

In the beginning of the film, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, is disappointed and embarrassed as he stammers through an important speech, becoming distracted and tongue-tied. This familiar situation leaves him feeling hopeless, so his wife Elizabeth resolves to find him a speech therapist. When she enters the home of Lionel Logue, a man known for his unconventional methods, she convinces him to treat her husband after revealing the Duke's identity.

The Duke of York reluctantly attends his first session, but he is appalled after Logue reveals to him the severity of his condition by making him recite a passage from Shakespeare's "Hamlet." The Duke abandons the treatment, believing it to be hopeless. However, he eventually convinces himself to return as long as Logue agrees to help him strictly through physical exercises. Throughout their sessions, however, Logue continues to subtly prod at the underlying issues that led to his stutter. When the Duke finally reveals his inner turmoil to Logue, he makes substantial progress in his speech.

When his brother David ascends to the throne after the death of King George V, determined to pursue a divorcee who is still legally married, Prince Albert confronts the matter. He points out that David would not be eligible to serve as king, so his brother accuses him of trying to usurp the throne. After the encounter, the Duke and Logue have a heated argument about the matter, leaving their relationship strained. However, the Duke of York would soon need to prepare for his role as King George VI, and Lionel Logue is the only one who can help him address the masses with courage and dignity.

The storytelling and cinematography of this movie are stunning, but the great acting is what really brings the film together. Colin Firth immerses himself into the role of King George VI, convincingly portraying the frustrated, self-conscious, stammering future king. Geoffrey Rush also holds his own as Lionel Logue, giving a great performance without stealing the spotlight from the lead actor. The exchange of dialog between the two characters is both believable and entertaining, giving audiences the impression that they are getting to know the characters on a deeper level.

Despite its large-scale plot, "The King's Speech" is essentially a character-driven film. Character growth is evident, giving the movie a real-world feel that reminds viewers of its historic basis. The blossoming relationship between the future king and his therapist, and the character development of Prince George leading up to his days as king, are especially gripping. The film is largely a celebration of the bonds that lead human beings to greatness, as it is clear that King George VI could never have achieved what he did without the assistance of Logue. Echoes of this relationship ripple even further as the king must address his people to lead them into World War II.

"The King's Speech" shows audiences a side of royalty that is rarely revealed. Human imperfections are shown as natural, yet they immensely effect those in important roles. In entering the life and mind of King George, viewers see how troubled, self-conscious and timid the character truly is before he undergoes a transformation that echoes the themes of perseverance, friendship and courage.

The musical score of "The King's Speech" is subtle yet beautiful, consisting mainly of strings and piano. The minimalist soundtrack is perfect for this character-centered movie, and it accurately portrays King George's feeling in every scene. Throughout the film, the instruments become more closely intertwined and complex, finishing with a beautiful finale during the king's speech.

The film has very few shortcomings, and these are easily overshadowed by the well-paced story and great acting. The film occasionally suffers from a lack of deeper thematic elements, and a few of the melodramatic situations are cliché. Still, the film manages to entrance viewers and capture their hearts in a rare way.

"The King's Speech" is a character-driven film that allows its actors to shine. At first glance, the plot does not seem like the premise for a full-length movie. However, audiences soon discover that "The King's Speech" is a cinematic achievement that is sure to be heralded as a classic in the realm of dramatic biographies.

Rating: 4 out of 5