CAPSULE: This simple, likeable story of the future King of England attempting to overcome a speech impediment is playing to sold out theaters here in the United States. THE KING'S SPEECH tells the story of how a self-effacing prince of England overcame stammering to be a leader for his people when they went to war against Nazism. Tom Hooper directs a film that gives a rich and warm study of the royal family of England. This is one of the best-written films of the year. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
It has been claimed that there are statistics that say that people's dread of death is only their second greatest fear. Their greatest fear is public speaking.
It is the late 1920s and Britain's Prince Albert, the Duke of York (played by Colin Firth), has a very commonplace problem. He stammers when he speaks. If he gets in front of a microphone he finds it only possible to utter only incomprehensible monosyllables and long pauses. For his predecessors this would not have been a problem. Few people ever actually heard the voices of royalty. Loudspeakers and the radio are changing that. In the past few people had an opportunity to hear royalty. The age of electricity has changed that. For now, Albert is just a prince. His older brother David, the Duke of Windsor (played by a waspish Guy Pearce), is in line for the throne of England when their father King George V (Michael Gambon) dies. But the king is getting old, and neither of the brothers wants to be King of England. David is in the midst of a romance (to put it politely) with American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). Albert's greatest fear is coming true. David may abdicate and Albert may well end up king. Albert is a much better choice for king, but he cannot get in front of a microphone and speak to his people. After going to several specialists, Albert is no closer to overcoming his stuttering. The last possibility is Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) an eccentric Australian speech therapist. He is demanding, impertinent, and imperious. He demands the right to call the Prince "Bertie," a familiarity reserved for the royal family. Albert demands that his visits to the therapist be kept strictly private. Not even Logue's wife is to know. (How Mrs. Logue learns who is husband's client is makes for one of the more memorable scenes of the film.)
The story of THE KING'S SPEECH is at heart a simple one. There is more than a little of THE MIRACLE WORKER in the story. Logue is taking on a job that people considered to be experts have failed at. He wants things done his way. The two men form a relationship of opposites. Albert is the royal and soon to be the king. Logue is a commoner, and as an Australian he is commoner than most. Yet it is Logue who insists on the imperial manner. Each is engaging in his own way, and the two form a bond that will last the rest of their lives together. Helena Bonham Carter plays Queen Elizabeth, wife of Albert and the woman whom we would know as the Queen Mother. Carter is getting old enough that she actually looks a little old and dowdy in the role, perhaps a first for her.
Director Tom Hooper shows us an England changing in many ways. The technology of radio is making new demands on the King. Preparing for the King's accession ceremony the demands of the Archbishop of Canterbury are pushed aside for the demands of the sound technicians. Still the remarkable thing about this film is its "niceness." In spite of being about the pressure of high government and the rise of Nazism going on in the background, the viewer gets a believable look at the royal family as being likable and as far as possible unassuming people. The Prince and later King has problems that your next-door neighbor might. Somehow too few films are made these days that are leisurely enough for the viewer to get to know and like the characters.
THE KING'S SPEECH has good performances all around, but the two main characters rank highest of all. I rate THE KING'S SPEECH a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1504320/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_kings_speech/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper