| It seems only fitting that my last review of 2010 is for my favorite film of the year.
Emmy Award-winning director Tom Hooper has already proved his mettle in television with two HBO miniseries, “Elizabeth I” (2005) and “John Adams” (2008). He conquers the big screen with this splendid movie based on the true story of King George VI (Colin Firth from “Love Actually” and “A Single Man”) and his unlikely friendship with maverick Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush from “Quills” and “Shine”).
The movie is bookended by two historic speeches. Before becoming king, the second son of King George V (Michael Gambon) is known as Prince Albert of York. His father chooses him to deliver the closing speech from Wembley Stadium of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition. It is his inaugural broadcast to the nation and the world. His debilitating stammer makes his listeners uncomfortable, and he comes across as nervous and unsure of himself. The movie concludes with a 1939 BBC radio broadcast from 10 Downing Street where he declares that a state of war exists with Germany. He has made a startling transformation from ugly duckling to strong leader, providing an inspirational message that his loyal subjects can rally around against Adolf Hitler.
The core of the movie deals with Albert’s self-sacrifice in overcoming the adversity of his speech defect and achieving personal triumph. He sees doctors who try everything, including putting marbles in his mouth.
His devoted and loving wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter from “Sweeney Todd” and “The Wings of the Dove”), procures the services of Logue. Logue, a frustrated actor, has no credentials, but gained experience as a therapist by helping Aussie soldiers returning from the front find their own voice.
He employs a series of controversial and unorthodox methods in several visits with Albert, who he affectionately refers to as “Bertie.” On Jan. 20, 1936, Albert’s father dies and his older brother, David (Guy Pearce), ascends to the throne. The former Prince of Wales becomes King Edward VIII and his reign is short. Less than a year later, he abdicates the crown in order to marry his mistress, the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). The Church of England would not recognize the divorce of a woman with two living ex-husbands.
On Dec. 12, 1936, Bertie becomes King George VI. He stammers in his address to Parliament and the Royal Court. His wife is by his side through thick and thin. His daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, curtsy and call him “your majesty” for the first time.
The human spirit soars as the movie exudes an abundance of feelings and emotions. The story is spiked with humor and great sincerity. You will find a touch of class and refinement befitting what should be named best picture of the year.
The acting by Firth, Rush and Carter is to die for. The terrific screenplay written by David Seidler (“Tucker: The Man and His Dream”) gives the entire cast great lines to speak and memorable situations to work through.
Firth is the clear Oscar frontrunner for Best Actor. Rush will be one of the favorites for Best Supporting Actor. Carter gives another solid understated performance and will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. This movie is my choice to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It aligns perfectly with the demographics of the typical Oscar voter and should appeal to their taste in quality filmmaking.
In addition to the splendid acting, the movie’s other superlative strengths are an eloquent musical score from composer Alexandre Desplat, jaw-dropping interior design work, elegant costumes, top-drawer cinematography and meticulous authentic period detail.
The star-studded supporting cast includes Timothy Spall as a comical-looking Winston Churchill, Derek Jacobi as Archbishop Cosmo Lang, Jennifer Ehle as Myrtle Logue, Anthony Andrews as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and Claire Bloom as Queen Mary.
Mature viewers should ignore the controversial “R” rating unfairly placed on the film by the MPAA. It stems from only one scene where Firth is required by his therapist to say as many cuss words as come to mind as part of a therapeutic exercise. The film’s rating in England was reduced by a similar board that ruled the intent of the strong language was not aggressive or directed at any person.
This cinematic royal gem should take its rightful place as king of the mountain right alongside “The Queen,” “Elizabeth” and “Shakespeare in Love.” It is opening at AMC Town Center 20, Cinemark Palace, Dickinson Palazzo 16 and the Rio on Christmas Day.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"