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King's Speech, The (Blu-ray Review)

27 Apr, 2011 By: Billy Gil

Anchor Bay
Box Office $138.54 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for some language.
Stars Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi.

Best Picture Oscar winner The King’s Speech on DVD and Blu-ray reminds us why a movie about a snotty royal with a speech impediment bested the likes of Inception and The Social Network to take home the top honors at this year’s Academy Awards. With classic storytelling, biting wit and four towering performances (five if you count director Tom Hooper, whose pacing and editorial eye never falter), The King’s Speech proves itself worthy upon renewed viewing.

The premise is simple enough. England’s Prince Albert (Colin Firth) finds himself next in line for the throne after his father, George V, dies, and his playboy brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), abdicates the throne to marry a divorcée — a big no-no for a king-to-be. The more stately Albert is set to step in, with one major snag — a crippling stammer leaves his voice choked and guttural, and with radio taking off and the king’s place relegated to a figurehead who must inspire his people, especially in the wake of Hitler’s rise in Germany.

Albert’s supportive wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), enlists the help of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to whip his tongue into shape. Logue sets them as equals, insisting upon calling Albert “Bertie” and urging him to sing and lob profanities as alternative ways to coax the voice out of him.

As many have, you can dispute The King’s Speech’s historical accuracy or whether or not it deserved its best picture accolades, but it’s nearly futile to dispute the quality of the film. Firth’s gutsy portrayal — heartbreaking and hilarious as he struggles to puff himself up as his country’s next great leader while screaming curses through his impediment — is humanistic acting at its finest. Rush and Carter, two idiosyncratic and scene-stealing actors, show range and restraint in their respective roles and defining what it is to be a great supporting actor — a montage in which the three leads go through slapstick exercises to train Bertie’s reluctant voice washes away any stuffiness implied by “period piece drama.” Pearce is memorable even in a somewhat limiting role as the fickle Edward. When the film escalates toward its conclusion as Bertie gives his pivotal speech to the people of England (now infamously used as the backdrop to a best-picture montage at the Oscars), Hooper successfully exposes the tiny dramas and very real people that exist behind moments in history.

The discs include a perfunctory commentary, deleted scenes and a making-of featurette — no need for a huge featurette bank here, as the film’s the attraction.

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