The King’s Worthy Speech

The King’s Speech is the best movie I’ve seen all year.  Ok, it’s the only film I’ve seen on the big screen this year and may be the last.  The truth is, I don’t much like going to the cinema anymore.  Paying a premium price to watch a flick on the big screen seems to me a dying form of entertainment with all the competition from movie channels, Netflix, Red Box and home theatre systems with Blu-Ray, HD and surround sound.  I’m surprised so many people continue to frequent the cineplexes of America given the bedbug infestations, skyrocketing prices at the box office and concessions and those terrifyingly loud movie previews that cannot be muted and shake the theater.  At home, I mute all commercials.

In the last few years, I’ve only been to the cinema a handful of times, and then mostly at the invitation of family members.  These are the movies I’ve seen in the last 2 years, some of which I’ve reviewed on this blog: SALT, The Secret in their Eyes, Sherlock Holmes, The Social NetworkStar Trek and Sweeney Todd. As you can see, I seem to favor flicks that begin with the letter S.

I’d rank The King’s Speech right up there as one of the best movies I’ve seen in years and certainly worthy of all the accolades it has received.  I hope it wins a few Oscars.  It has all the qualities I like in a movie:  a straight forward plot, superb acting, an all-star cast, a fantastic original screenplay by David Seidler with witty and intelligent dialogue and well-developed characters, among them David, the irresponsible socialite and heir to the throne of King George III, who relentlessly teases and bullies his younger brother Albert, the Duke of York.

The movie begins with the Duke of York, played by Colin Firth, known to the Royal family as Bertie, standing frozen in front of a microphone during a live radio broadcast at Wimbley Stadium. As we quickly surmise, Bertie, the man who would become King, has a debilitating stammer.  Despite numerous treatments, some bizarre like reading with a mouth full of marbles and smoking to relax the throat, the Duke continues to stutter.  In desperation, the Duke’s wife, the future Queen of England, played by Helena Bonham Carter, contacted a controversial speech therapist known for unorthodox methods.  The first meeting between the Duke and “Dr.” Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, ended abruptly after the Duke in disgust read Shakespeare into a vinyl recording machine.  He was forced to read loudly while listening to classical music on a set of headphones.   As a souvenir, Logue presented the recording to the Duke, who vowed never to return.  But return he did and for continued therapy on Logue’s terms, for example that he be allowed to address the Duke as Bertie, a term reserved only for members of the Royal family.  The movie focuses on the peculiar speech therapy sessions which often consisted of carefully orchestrated cursing,  dance steps and a song or two complemented by psychoanalysis to get to the root of the stammer.    In the process, the unlikely duo, divided by class, background (Logue is Australian) and purpose, become friends.

The acting is superb.  Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush deserve Oscar attention.  I agree with my daughter who thinks Jeffrey Rush should win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  I’d also like to see Colin Firth get the nod for Best Actor and Helena Bonham Carter for Best Supporting Actress.

Whether the film is worthy of the Oscar for Best Picture is a question I can’t answer in good faith as I have not yet seen most of the films nominated, including two that I want to see most prior to the Academy Awards: Inception and True Grit.  I can say without hesitation, though, that The King’s Speech is better than The Social Network.

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