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The King's Speech: movie review

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, as prince and speech therapist, are marvelous in 'The King's Speech,' a moving and remarkable story of friendship and triumph.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / November 24, 2010

Colin Firth portrays King George VI and Helena Bonham Carter portrays the Queen Mother in a scene from, 'The King's Speech.'

Laurie Sparham/The Weinstein Company/AP

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“The King’s Speech” is a remarkable movie about a remarkable friendship. It honors the audience’s intelligence, which makes it a double rarity.

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The friendship that painstakingly evolves is between Prince Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth) and Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a frustrated Austalian actor turned highly unorthodox speech therapist. Albert, who has a dreadful stammer, has failed all previous medical interventions and vows never to try another.

Only the ministrations of his wife, Elizabeth, (a marvelous Helena Bonham Carter) bring him to Lionel, who, believing emotional intimacy is curative, insists on addressing the rankled Prince as “Bertie,” the family nickname. "My game, my turf, my rules,” he states flatly.

Among many other good things, “The King’s Speech,” directed by Tom Hooper (HBO’s “John Adams”) and written by David Seidler, is a meditation on a transitional time when royalty was expected to speak to the nation and not just pose commandingly before it.

Albert, son of King George V (Michael Gambon), believed he was protected from the humiliations of public oration because his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) was in succession. But when Edward, as king, abdicates to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), Albert is reluctantly enthroned.

Prior to this, Albert and Lionel had achieved an uneasy alliance which breaks apart after Lionel suggests “Bertie” is his brother’s better. What was intended as inspirational is received by Albert as the impertinence of a “nobody.” (It’s a heartbreaking scene.) Their ultimate reconciliation, which is as sensitively rendered as the fine-drawn gradations of friendship preceding it, is the heart of the movie.

It is Lionel’s belief that Albert, whom he regards as “the bravest man I know,” could be a wonderful king. On the evidence available to him, this might seem like a stretch – Albert’s bravery, after all, is essentially confined to eradicating his stammer, and we never hear him discuss statesmanship, about which he seems adamantly uninterested.

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