M. Logue and P. Conradi, The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
The magnificent movie The King's Speech relates a little-known, in fact intentionally hidden, part of the life of Elizabeth II's father, George VI, whose pronounced stammer impeded his ability to speak publicly. Mark Logue wrote a book of the same title, based on what he discovered in the journals of his grandfather, Lionel Logue, an Australian who turned his work helping shell-shocked World War I veterans into a career as a speech pathologist, before taking on his most famous patient. Logue's notes were also the basis of the film's excellent screenplay, written by David Seidler, whose last memorable work was the quirky Tucker. Director Tom Hooper, who also directed the television miniseries Elizabeth I, with Helen Mirren as the earlier Elizabeth, leads a cast composed of the cream of British acting in a note-perfect evocation of the monarchy and its surroundings in the early 20th century. In the movie, when the Duchess of York (the elegant Helena Bonham Carter) first speaks to Logue, under an assumed name, about treating her husband, Logue counsels her that perhaps her husband should change jobs to something that does not require public speaking. When she responds that he cannot, Logue asks wryly, "Indentured servitude?" The equally witty reply is "Something of the sort."
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The film hinges, however, on the antagonism between Firth and the Lionel Logue of Geoffrey Rush, a bristling class-inspired clash that warms into mutual admiration and friendship. If Firth appears on track to win an Academy Award -- he has been tipped as Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Golden Globes (the latter perhaps overshadowed by the controversial hosting of Ricky Gervais) -- Rush's performance seemed even subtler, creating a character who was certainly eccentric but also visionary, pushing the class boundary in search of a cure but also painfully aware of his place and devoted to the king. The role was a bit of a needle to thread, and Rush conveys the corniness of the man, who was a failed Shakespearean actor, as well as his sincerity, without ever making the portrayal campy. At an estimated budget of only $15 million, this film is yet another reminder that 3-D or CGI special effects have nothing on a well-crafted screenplay, clean direction, and a talented cast.