The King’s Speech
by Sanela Djokovic
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There’s Oscar buzz is humming loudly around Colin Firth again this year. Last year he was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in “A Single Man,” and it is likely that his performance as King George VI of England in “The King’s Speech,” will garner him another nomination this year.
In fact, it would be surprising if Firth’s performance in the film is the only one recognized this upcoming awards season. While “The King’s Speech” teeters into corny territory at times, it’s the kind of corny we don’t mind, mostly because actors like Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter make it work. And, they do not only make it work, they make it delightful.
King George VI (Colin Firth) was known as Bertie to his family… and his speech therapist. The son of King George V (Michael Gambon) and the brother of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) struggled with a speech impediment his entire life. His stammer impinged on his public duties as Duke of York and the idea of ever becoming King seemed like an impossibility, but after the death of his father and his brother’s scandalous renunciation of the throne it not only becomes a possibility, but a reality.
After seeing several speech therapists with impeccable credentials, Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds a modest, avant-garde-ish Australian speech expert named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). While leaping into an alternative, pseudo-psychological treatment curriculum the two men stumble upon an unlikely friendship.
“The King’s Speech,” directed by Tom Hooper (“The Damned United”), is heartwarming at times, often very funny, but the film’s liveliness comes from the chemistry between Firth and Rush. Firth is fantastic as Bertie. The stammering alone is physically difficult to do, but he owns it to the point where you can feel the tautness in his jaw and in his eyes. He not only becomes the man with a speech impediment, he becomes the member of the Royal Family, the loving father and husband that harbors fear, insecurity and shame.
Geoffrey Rush is enchanting as the sharp and strange therapist, but the together Firth and Rush are never boring. Their exchanges, with Bertie’s temper and Logue’s passion, are always entertaining and spirited. For that, a lot of credit must also go to writer David Seidler, who having grown up with speech impediment, idolized King George VI as a boy.
Helena Bonham Carter exhibits unwavering strength, as per usual, in her role as Bertie’s beloved wife Elizabeth and Guy Pearce is perfectly egocentric as his fickle brother David (King Edward VIII), rounding out a truly terrific cast—a cast that really makes the film in this case.
Sanela Djokovic is a writer living in the Bronx
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