Friday, January 28, 2011

THE KING'S SPEECH: Why can't more movies be like this?

By now, most movie-goers have at least heard of director Tom Hooper's brilliant film The King's Speech, based on a literate and witty script by David Seidler. Believe every positive rave you have heard and double it. Among an unusually strong field of fine films up for Oscars this year, this one scores on every front. It has suspense without car chases or special effects (Inception), fiery face-offs without guns or fists (True Grit, The Fighter), dysfunctional families (Winter's Bone, The Fighter), without bizarre extremes and much more. No, it doesn't feature animated toys, a nutcase ballerina, or Mark Ruffalo as a sperm donor.

Instead The King's Speech tells the true story of a man with a debilitating stutter, a man who never dreamed nor hoped he would become king of England. Colin Firth's thoroughly human and vulnerable performance as George VI is one of the finest pieces of acting I have seen in a long time. And he is matched by Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, a man of talent and caring who uses humor, song and dance and other unorthodox methods to free the future king from his fear not only of his stutter but of his family and responsibilities. Their sessions are at first contentious but eventually they become friends, the king and the Australian commoner. This is the core of the film. Surrounding it are excellent character work by Helena Bonham and a score of English heavyweights. All of the major action takes place in the famous period when Edward VII renounces the throne for Mrs. Wallace Simpson, leading to George's coronation and his speech to the British people as they face Hitler and World War II. All these factors are headily emotional, and the director balances them with feeling and discretion, making them even more charged with feeling.

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