27 December 2010 | dbogosian-1
A touching, historical masterpiece
I rarely rate a movie a "10" but in this case, it is well deserved. Truly, there is no way to improve upon the achievement that this film represents, whether in casting, direction, writing, artistic value, you name it.
The story gives us a fascinating look into the struggles faced by George VI on his way to becoming king of England. The story line is all about his stuttering, but underneath all that are suppressed memories from childhood, growing up in the shadow of an elder brother, perpetual negative reinforcement from a domineering father, etc. It's a psychoanalytical look at a well-known royal family, and while I can't vouch for its absolute veracity, it gives a rare glimpse into the lives of people we wouldn't otherwise observe at this level of intimacy (much like "Queen" did a few years ago).
The contrast between George and Edward VIII is most fruitful. It's the clash between duty and hedonism, fulfilling one's personal quest for happiness vs. overcoming one's worst fears on behalf of your people and country. Edward is typically romanticized and lionized, but here we see him as more of a spoiled, selfish lout.
But the heart of the movie is the relationship between George and Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who is helping him overcome his speech problems. Both actors are at the absolute top of their form. Firth is brilliant as the aloof, initially reluctant and distrustful monarch, while Rush shows the same wink-of-the-eye humor and irony that he did as Barbossa, relishing the sheer inequality of their positions yet knowing the extent to which George is dependent on him. Ultimately a true friendship develops between the men, and since they are both such endearing characters, it's a joy to watch.
I should add that Helena Bonham-Carter is also spot-on as the haughty yet practical queen consort. Other more minor roles are effectively played (e.g., Winston Churchill, George V). The entire movie is a perfect blend of history, personal and familial drama, with broader themes of perseverance and overcoming adversity which give it a timeless application.
Lastly, in this movie's case, the "R" rating is for "Ridiculous." The only potentially offensive material is some over-the-top language (including the F-word) which plays a part in one scene, and is clearly used for comic purpose and with great effect. I unhesitatingly took my 13 year old daughter and (depending on the child) might be okay for even younger ones. Don't let that stop you from seeing this gem.