Saturday, January 22, 2011

The King's Speech Review

The primary source of communication between human beings is speech. And it matters not whether one is a commoner, a rich man, a poor man or the King of England. If we're not using sign language, we use vocal speech to talk to one another.

Based on a true story The King's Speech is about England's Prince Albert, later to be King George VI (Colin Firth), and his struggle with his speech impediment. That handicap? He stammers. When official therapists fail to cure him, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks the help of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist. Logue refuses to be patronized when he tries to treat Prince Albert whom he calls "Bertie" the royal family nickname for Prince Albert. During an exercise at the first session, Lionel has the Prince read Shakespeare while listening to music through headphones. Believing he can't help, the Prince leaves but keeps a recording of his reading. The recording is a clean reading without the stammer and Prince Albert goes back to Lionel for help. But this film is more than a story about a handicap. It's a historical snapshot of a time before World War II, the abdication of King Edward, the rise of the Nazis and the need for a voice to comfort the nation.

Any great movie must start with the screenplay. American David Seidler (Tucker: A Man and his Dream, 1988) has crafted a screenplay that exudes humor and warmth. It explores the man who would be king and the forces that made him. So great is his writing, I predict there will be many scenes that will be run over and over in film schools. Tom Hopper's (John Adams) direction is masterful. Every musical cue, and shot is skillfully and carefully placed. Take for instance Logue's office and the walls of multi-color paint. They form an abstract piece of artwork, making the view wonder what does it all mean. What is being communicated here? He also gets wonderful performances from the cast.

And the cast is sublime. How good is the cast? Three Harry Potter actors are in supporting roles. You won't recognize any of them. Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) plays Albert's stern father, King George V. Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lastrange) is Albert's faithful wife, Queen Elizabeth. And you'll never guess who plays Winston Churchill. It's Timothy Spall. (Wormtail) It's a far cry from being a rat man to one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century. Colin Firth is believable as the future king. I never noticed he was acting. Geoffry Rush's Lionel is at times mischievous, courageous, and loving. Yes, Rush shows his love for his student many times in this film.

The King's Speech is sheer film poetry. It's funny and touching . It is one of the finest films of the twenty first century. I saw the movie in Cincinnati, Ohio. The house was packed and the audience applauded at the end. That's rare. The grade is A +.

Here' s a funny clip.

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