If you don’t read the title right, The King’s Speech is misleading.
Though highly inspirational, it is not about an historical moment where a great orator’s spiel captivates, motivates or says something to save the day. For most of the movie, the king isn’t even a king.
He is Albert, the son of King George V and the brother of King Edward, the British monarch who abdicated to marry an American divorcee. Unfamiliar with British history? Albert fathered the current Queen Elizabeth.
Plagued by a severe stuttering impediment and a number of insecurities, Albert did not want to be king. His ascent to the throne is tied to a relationship with an untrained and unlettered Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue.
Colin Firth is Albert. He has wowed critics for years, but other than work in Bridget Jones’ Diary a decade ago, hasn’t been on the radar of the average moviegoer all that much. He got noticed last year for an Oscar-nominated performance in A Single Man and was one of the reasons to catch the art house treasure Easy Virtue in 2008.
Firth uses the dialogue from Dave Seidler’s exceptional screenplay to ratchet up his considerable skill a notch. He gives Albert multiple dimensions as a self-conscious introvert desperate to overcome a crippling defect. One scene takes Firth up and down the emotional ladder, doing every possible emotion from anger and rage to hysterical laughter. His acting puts you in the shoes of a man trapped in an inescapable cage.
You ache for the guy.
Yet, Albert is also an aristocrat. Unlikeable. Cool. Cold. Aloof. Firth’s work is stunning and the balancing act brilliant. It is the best performance in any acting category of 2010, and Firth is a shoo-in for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a dozen other best-acting awards.
Firth gets a lot of help from supporting stars Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter. Rush is a great character actor who makes every movie he does better. He is a man who knows he can cure the patient, yet must avoid ticking off the nation’s future king and the aristocracy that controls him. Rush’s delicate dance and dynamic dialogue delivery is nearly perfect.
So is the work of Helena Bonham Carter. She underplays the role and gives a tongue-in-cheek, almost comic performance as Albert’s ever-supportive wife, Elizabeth. Like Rush, she is so good she makes acting look easy.
The King’s Speech is directed by Tom Hooper ( The Damned United, HBO’s award-winning mini-series, John Adams). He is a young director with uncommonly good storytelling skills. Hooper quickly gets you emotionally invested in the characters and a most fascinating story, and then takes you deep into an awkward friendship of two very different men.
The King’s Speech is hand’s down 2010’s best movie and will — in the end — leave you speechless.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for language. It opens Friday, Jan. 14 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.