The King's Speech
This year’s designated Oscar frontrunner for those who don’t know Facebook from Face the Nation, The King’s Speech is an entertainingly crafted movie that doesn’t linger too long in the mind. Like The Queen, to which it bears a superficial resemblance, it broadly concerns the royals’ struggles to adapt to a changing media climate; here, Bertie, Duke of York (Firth)—eventually the reluctant George VI, father of Elizabeth—must overcome a stammer in time to rally Britain to WWII over radio. The chronology has been compressed to give the final scenes more weight (according to biographers, Bertie gave successful public speeches a decade before the triumphs in question), but that’s no matter, since the movie’s true subject is friendship: It looks at what happens when a man of power is lowered to the same level as a man with little means.
The best scenes are set in Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue’s den, where the mad hatter (Rush) tricks Bertie into reading from Hamlet without a stumble. Both actors are solid. In what may be a stylistic choice, the world outside the cave is reduced to a succession of pageants and Wikipedia points. The tension with older brother Edward (Pearce) over Baltimore divorcée Wallis Simpson barely registers, and Spall waits in the wings to offer mild words of encouragement as Winston Churchill. With a backdrop this large, The King’s Speech can’t help but seem monosyllabic.