I saw this film in an independent theatre in Palo Alto, which was packed with what looked like the entire baby boomer population of Northern California. But next to me sat a young teenage girl with her parents who was one of the first people to start clapping when the film ended. And I was right behind her. Has there ever been a more likable and honest looking actor than Colin Firth? Who better to play a monarch who has been placed in a position of power he never dreamed would befall him. "The King's Speech" directed by Tom Hooper ("John Adams" "Red Dust" and a long list of very good British television shows and mini-series) and starring Colin Firth (magnificent last year in "A Single Man," "Bridget Jones Diary," and of course, the original Mr. Darcy in "Pride & Prejudice"), Geoffrey Rush ("Shine", "Quills" and was Barbossa in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise) and Helena Bonham Carter ("Sweeney Todd", "Howards End" and the deliciously evil Bellatrix in the Harry Potter films.) This film is the story of King George VI, who came to the throne just as the Nazi threat was escalating in Europe, when his brother, King Edward VIII (wonderfully portrayed by Guy Pearce), abdicated in order to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson (Eve Best.) King George, or Bertie as he was known to his family, had always been afflicted with stuttering. As a prince, he was called upon to give public speeches and they always were always excruciating, but when he came to power as the King, his duty as a public speaker became paramount. Bertie had been treated by all the best doctors and therapists in England but saw little improvement. Thus Bertie's wife, Elizabeth, turned to Lionel Logue as a last resort. The two men had a rough beginning but eventually developed a fast friendship and Lionel spent the rest of his life helping Bertie at every speech and public appearance. The story of the two men and how they came to understand each other is very funny and touching at the same time. The techniques that Lionel used (he was not a doctor nor was he trained in speech pathology - he had honed his skill while helping wounded soldiers who had severe shell shock and would speak to no one but him) slowly bring out the story of Bertie's childhood - his overbearing father, wicked nannies and doted-on older brother. These factors all played a part in Bertie's affliction. Colin Firth is magnificent as Bertie. His stuttering never feels forced and the interplay between Bertie and Logue feels like you are truly watching two old friends.
This is a fascinating story of what it means to be a monarch. The screenplay is smart, funny, caustic and engaging. Many historical figures are seen throughout the film, such as Winston Churchill (an amazing Timothy Spall, who was last seen as Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter), Neville Chamberlain (Roger Parrott) and the Princess Elizabeth (Freya Wilson) whom we all know grows up to be Elizabeth II. This is a wonderful film for the whole family.