The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010): UK/Australia
Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy. Viewed at the Riviera, Santa Barbara, CA.
After WWI Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is thrust into the spotlight, stammer and all, with the advent of public radio addresses. When his brother King Edward VIII suddenly abdicates the throne of England, Prince Albert becomes HRM King George VI, and must face his speech difficulties in The King’s Speech. After suffering from a childhood speech impediment, and through a deluge of unsuccessful speech therapists, Albert’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks the help of backdoor therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who has had success with WWI shell-shocked vets.
An Aussie, Logue shows an apparent disregard for the British Monarchy and addresses the Royal Albert as “Bertie,” and then applies unorthodox methods to achieve results, such as rolling on the floor, reciting literature into a dictaphone, or spewing profane epithets.
Albert decides he’s had enough when Logue begins to suggest treason between the brothers, but once he’s forced to the throne and the sttttammering persists, it becomes imperative to seek Lionel’s friendship and expertise.
Through arduous close-ups, distorted lenses, and tedious silences, Hooper pulls the audience up close to Albert’s anguish – as he vainly attempts to utter his thoughts, we painfully hold our breath with great anxiety and feel Albert’s torment.
Interjecting pride with sensitivity and humility, the role of verbally inept Albert is Colin Firth’s jewel in his crown and worthy of an Oscar. Likewise, Helena Bonham Carter’s deeply understanding Elizabeth is her greatest character portrayal since Lady Jane in 1986. Geoffrey Rush is equally impressive as the dignified but cheeky Logue.