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Movie Review: The King's Speech

By James Beale
February 25, 2011

"The King's Speech" is the type of film that wins Oscars. With 12 nominations and a host of Best Picture awards in the past few months, it seems destined to sweep March's ceremonies.

And it's tough to disagree. While "The Social Network" may be praised for its modernity and "Inception" for its inventiveness, "The King's Speech" is undoubtedly a great film.

However, because the film is a historical drama and the climax involves a man with no power speaking into a microphone, many audience members may take that against the film. They should not.

Like most great films, there is a deep study of two personalities in contact. Albert, played by Colin Firth, is the Duke of York and has a speech impediment. Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, is a speech therapist.

But their relationship transcends business, years, and traditional societal bounds.

Firth and Rush both are excellent, as is Albert's wife (Helena Bonham Carter).

The film starts a little slowly, but picks up considerably following the death of George V (Michael Gambon). Bonham Carter is incredibly understated, with her character balancing multiple conflicts in the background.

It's amazing that this story hasn't already been told. There was a lot going on in the 1930s, including Edward VIII's ascension and resignation and Hitler's rising power in the east. But director Tom Hooper and writer David Seidler wisely keep these stories in the background, which influence the narrative but never overtake it.

These stories are developed in part by not mentioning them. Dates flash in the right-hand corner of the screen, and even though Hitler is barely mentioned until the end of the film, the audience knows war is coming in 1939, and a man must be able to convince the world that it is a worthwhile fight.

Some scenes are particularly difficult to watch, including the opening scene. It reminded me it doesn't take gore to make you uncomfortable in the movie theater. Even with these awkward scenes, the script takes measures to prevent the audience from ever feeling pity for the British monarch, which is a key element in Albert's own struggle.

In addition to the excellent relationships, the film is well-shot, relying on many interior shots to create a mood of constriction. Hooper perhaps over-directs the film with his use of framing and angling, since it has so many fine performances already, but it ultimately adds to the product.

The film merits an R rating due to two scenes with a stream of language, but these scenes are essential. Parents should not be dissuaded by the rating, nor should 20-somethings be dissuaded by the subject. "The King's Speech" may not be as current or as inventive as other films this year, but it's just as good.

4/4 stars

"The King's Speech" is playing at The Lyric Feb. 18 and from Feb. 20 to March 3.