The King’s Speech ****

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“The King’s Speech” is an incredible tale of overcoming disability in order to lead a nation in to war.  But it is also much more then that.  It gives us insight in to one of the most unique friendships I have ever experienced,  between a King and his Speech Therapist.

Colin Firth gives the performance of the year as Albert, Duke of York, who becomes King George VI of England.  His father, George V became the first British Monarch to speak over the radio, presenting a Christmas address.  Public speaking is not a strength of Albert.  He stammers when he speaks.  He visibly unsettles thousands of audience a members at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium in 1925. 

With the help of his wife Elizabeth (Helen Bonham Carter), he seeks out a speech therapist in an attempt to overcome his impediment.  This is when we meet Lionel Logue, an Australian now living in London.  His methods seem unorthodox at first but eventually do yield some results. 

Things get complicated when George the V’s health declines and he passes away.  Albert’s brother David(Guy Pearce), inherits the throne.  Things get more complicated when David decides to marry Wallis Simpson, a woman who has been divorced twice already.   Albert advises Edward that he cannot retain the throne if he goes through with the marriage.

When Edward chooses Wallis over his duties, Albert becomes King, just as Germany is declaring war on the rest of Europe.  This leads to a riveting moment when Albert much read a three page speech over the radio to his subjects, justifying their declaration of war with Germany.  The speech is a huge success, but not without the coaching of Lionel, who is there for every moment, helping him through every stuttering moment. 

Director Tom Hooper manages to make this story authentic and thrilling from start to finish.  He gets some of the best performances out his actors that I have seen this year.  Firth in particular is so good here you hardly remember he used to be in “Bridget Jones” movies.  His King George VI is deeply troubled, concealing some serious childhood traumas with every stammer and frozen silence. 

Geoffrey Rush is a perfect foil for Firth.  He is calm, confident yet touching at the same time.  He senses the real reasons for Albert’s speech issues almost right away.  As they delve in to Albert’s life, the two grow to become close friends for life.  Bonham Carter is good here as well as Albert’s supportive wife.

 

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