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Ten Word or Less Review: Stiff ass Brits make fun flick about speech impediment.

You have to afford an ample amount of respect to certain British filmmakers.  It takes guts to make a movie about something as outwardly trivial as a guy stammering.  Much like 2006’s The Queen, The King’s Speech tackles a story which by most accounts should amount to tedium but instead manages achieve a delicate air of humor and drama.  A refined, top notch cast and a skilled filmmaker breathe volumes of life into this tale of a King who just can’t seem to spit it out.

Colin Firth is Albert, the Duke of York.  Albert has a nagging problem which haunts his daily life.  He stammers, very badly.  Years of emotional repression, family strife and a general lack of self-confidence have left him unable to speak without running into a wall of inability.  Being royalty, this isn’t some problem to simply live with.  His inability to enunciate eloquently reflects badly on the Royals and on the fading and threatened British Empire as a whole.  The spread of radio, Speech is set mostly during the early 30’s, has suddenly rendered public speaking a most important skill.  That’s a very important stammer to be stuck with.  After years of failed attempts to correct the problem the Duke is thrust into the company of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist with unorthodox ways who refuses to let the Duke use his position in life as a point of superiority.  He insist on calling him Berty, puts him through silly actorish physical exercises, uses tongue twisters of titanic troublesomeness and encourages fits of profanity to loosen his mind, temper and tongue.  All of this becomes an enjoyable journey about two men becoming great friends, one man overcoming a debilitating handicap, and how an entire nation can be wrapped up in the speaking abilities of one man.

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush act up a storm in this stately, well groomed vehicle of a movie.  Firth has been an ever reliable source for old fashioned British thespian styling for some time now.  Perhaps the part doesn’t propose scores of challenges for him but he’s excellent regardless.  One of the year’s best scenes in any movie entails his Royal Highness getting in touch with his locked up ability to be profane.  Watching the refined loose their shit is always a hoot and the f word hasn’t been this fun in ages.  Playing off Firth with a constant, devilish gleam in his eye is Rush, having real fun for what seems like the first time since his first Pirates outing.  The thought of him screaming and ballyhooing through another one of those next summer now seems all the more dispiriting than it already was.  Rush infuses Logue with a devil may care; leave your bullshit on the front door step attitude that’s instantly ensnaring.  A who’s who of Harry Potter veterans, Helena Bonham Carter, James Gambon, Timothy Spall, fill out the cast in admirable fashion.

Longtime BBC director Tom Hooper puts things together with a light, sturdy hand and a good pace.  This being a British film it’s easy to foresee loads of methodical and emotional understatement and repressive attitudes that often accompany these types of drama.  But the film feels free and light weight on its feet.  It doesn’t feel restrictive or strangled at all.  Those fearing a turgid, BBC level costume drama, replete with tea sipping and emotional repression, will find a very different experience.

This winning tale should have little trouble winning over audiences.  It has numerous Oscar nominations in its future and is considered a front runner for winning Best Picture.  I can think of several better films this year but I wouldn’t bitch too much if it won.  If exceedingly British movies do little for you then perhaps it’s not for you.  It’s not a trailblazing groundbreaker like several of the years other fine accomplishments, but it can sit regally towards the top of 2010’s cinema with little fuss from me.




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