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Vol. LXV, No. 1
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

FACING HIS NEMESIS: King George VI (Colin Firth), stares at the microphone as he waits to deliver his fateful speech to his subjects in which he declares that Great Britain is at war with Germany.

The King’s Speech: Colin Firth Gives Unparalleled Performance as Stuttering Monarch

Kam Williams

When England’s King George V (Michael Gambon) passed away in 1936, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce). But Edward abdicated his throne less than a year into his reign in order to marry his mistress, Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), a twice divorced American citizen.

This meant that Prince Albert (Colin Firth) was next in line for the throne, but the heir apparent was reluctant to assume the position because of his stutter. He was aware of radio’s rising importance as a means of communication and that addressing his subjects on the air would be a critical part of his duties as King.

Unfortunately, over a decade earlier Prince Albert had had an embarrassing experience addressing a large crowd in Wembley Stadium. After that disaster, he engaged a world renowned speech therapist to help overcome his condition. However, Dr. Bentham’s (Roger Hammond) attempts failed, and as a result the Pr’s self-confidence plummeted, which explained why he was reluctant to become the monarch.

A spark of hope appeared when word of an Australian, who was rumored to be very successful at curing speech impediments, reached Albert’s supportive wife, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter). Using an alias, she secretly went in search of the highly recommended Dr. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in a seedy London slum.

As animated as he was eccentric, the self-assured therapist laid out non-negotiable ground rules prior to agreeing to take on “Mrs. Johnson mysterious husband as a client, including an understanding that all the sessions would be conducted in his modest home studio. And even after learning the identity of his new pupil, Logue insisted on addressing Prince Albert as “Bertie,” his Majesty’s nickname that, until then, was used only by his family.

Although infuriated by the cheeky commoner’s presumptuousness and his unorthodox methods, Albert gradually developed a grudging fondness for Logue as the stammer began to disappear. Their strained relationship is the fascinating focus of The King’s Speech, an historical drama directed by Tom Hooper.

The film is reminiscent of The Queen (2006) because it offers an inside peek at the intimate affairs of members of the Royal Family in the turbulent years after Albert’s coronation and the lead up to Eng’s entry into World War II in 1939.

The movie is at its best in the scenes which have the delightful badinage between Colin Firth as the recently-crowned King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as his tutor. However, the sobering specter of Hitler loomed over Europe and made Logue’s mission to prepare Albert ready to deliver a rousing declaration of war without stuttering, both a patriotic duty and an individual achievement.

Kudos to Firth and Rush for generating screen chemistry in their inspired performances.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for profanity. Running time: 111 minutes. Distributor: The Weinstein Company.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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