Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
At the dawning of the golden age of radio, it’s requisite for a public figure to speak well and inspiringly. Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the man who would be King George VI, cannot hide behind just the mere patina of royalty, as he possesses a debilitating stammer that stands in the way of potential greatness. His speech impediment diminishes any air of stateliness a simple photograph of him, say, may evoke. So with a bit of cajoling from his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), he seeks the help of a speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian-born former actor. Bertie, as Lionel brazenly prefers to call HRH (familiarity being essential to his treatment), has had his fair share of impotent treatments from various quacks, and is duly dubious of Lionel’s seemingly equally outlandish methods. But a breakthrough–Lionel’s methods surprise Bertie when a recording of himself while headphoned yields none of his usual stutters (he’d been distracted enough by the music so as not to focus on his speech)–leads to a business deal between the two that would lead to effective results on the speech front, as well as a lifelong friendship.
It’s a simple, somewhat subdued story, with no big frills. The climax, as many might already know, is a speech the king must make to his country on the eve of war with Germany. It’s a rather monumental task making a mountain of a seeming mole hill, especially when the speech is juxtaposed with World War II, a giant of an event fraught with both figurative and literal explosions. But David Seidler’s screenplay, which brims with such authenticity (a sure by-product of tapping his own personal experiences with a stuttering problem), manages this sleight of hand very well, amping up simple internal tensions to the point that we care about the speech’s significance to both king and country.
The film’s success is majorly a result of Colin Firth’s bravura performance as Bertie. He gives us not just a peek, but a virtual tour of the emotions, the stresses that accompany the king’s burdens. I know it may be premature, but I’ll place my bets on Firth for Best Actor come Oscar time. Also notable is Geoffrey Rush, who plays his Logue convincingly and with such likeability. You can’t help but root for him as he roots on for his king.
As I’d mentioned, there no big action scenes, no major plot twists here (especially if you already know how the story goes from real life). But “The King’s Speech” is an unassuming delight that, mirroring the controlled manner of the royals, will have you chuckling and feeling silently good. A definite recommend.