Speech triumphs with strong actors

The King’s Speech stars Colin Firth as Prince Albert, second in line to the British throne and plagued by a crippling affliction for a public figure: a pronounced stammer. Albert’s awkwardness is highlighted in an early scene where he is thrust in front of a microphone, resulting in strained silences that make the viewer as uncomfortable as the on-screen audience.

Albert at the least can rest relatively easy, knowing that his more charismatic brother Edward, played by Guy Pearce, is ahead of him in succession. Despite this, with prodding from his domineering father King George V, Albert is compelled to overcome his speaking problem.

At first, this results in a sequence of absurd remedies, including smoking cigarettes to “relax the throat.” None of this works, leaving Albert’s wife Elizabeth searching for more unconventional measures.
What Elizabeth finds is Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, who goes beyond the jaw-relaxing exercises to discover the psychological cause behind the stammer.

Few of the subsequent plot points would surprise anyone. It is clear that Albert will overcome his stammer, though not without significant hiccups along the way. The title of the film tells us that Albert will become King of England. For those who pride a twisty plot, this movie will not satisfy. Of course, fans of difficult themes do not dominate Academy Awards voting, either.

The highlights of the film lie not in the individual acting merits, but in the interplay between Albert and Lionel. Lionel pushes Albert, calling him by his childhood nickname Bertie in order to bring him to an equal level. Rather than diminishing Albert, this act shows that he can rise above the place he has placed himself: second-best. By engaging with Lionel as an equal and demonstrating his worth, Albert demonstrates his worthiness to be King. The film is altogether very lovely and well-acted. It is certainly worthy of much of the praise thrust upon it.

Another thing the film does that is completely extraordinary is make the audience believe that a member of British royalty is an underdog. A lot of credit is due to Firth for humanizing this character, but an equal praise must be given to the direction.

Much of the film is shot through a wide-angle lens, which is not a flattering effect. As a result, rather than the lush cinematography that one would expect, the film manages to feel very real for what it is.

It is admirable to see a film of this type so grounded, and if you have any inclination to see it you certainly should, as it is a contender to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards this month.


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