“The King’s Speech” is a buddy story about aggressively charming opposites — Colin Firth as the stutterer who would be king and Geoffrey Rush as the speech therapist. The story largely unfolds during the Great Depression, building to the compulsory rousing end in 1939 when Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, world calamities that don’t have a patch on the urgent matter of the speech impediment of Albert Frederick Arthur George (Mr. Firth). As a child, Albert, or Bertie as his family called him, the shy, sickly second son of King George V (Michael Gambon, memorably severe and regal), had a stutter debilitating enough that as an adult he felt compelled to conquer it. In this he was aided by his wife, Elizabeth (a fine Helena Bonham Carter), a steely Scottish rose and the mother of their daughters, Elizabeth, the future queen (Freya Wilson), and Margaret (Ramona Marquez). Albert meets his new speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Mr. Rush), reluctantly and only after an assortment of public and private humiliations. (In one botched effort, a doctor instructs Albert to talk with a mouthful of marbles, a gagging endeavor that might have altered the imminent monarchical succession). As eccentric and expansive as Albert is reserved, Logue enters the movie with a flourish, insisting that they meet in his shabby-chic office and that he be permitted to call his royal client, then the Duke of York, by the informal Bertie. It’s an ideal odd coupling, or at least that’s what the director Tom Hooper would have us believe as he jumps from one zippy voice lesson to the next, pausing every so often to wring a few tears.
OSCAR UPDATE: The Oscar race turned into a wild scramble on Tuesday, as “The King’s Speech” took the biggest number of nominations, “True Grit” surged into second position, and “The Social Network,” which had seemed a front-runner, was matched by “Inception,” followed closely by “The Fighter,” in gathering nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards.
“The King’s Speech,” about friendship and speech therapy, garnered 12 nods, including best picture, best director (for Tom Hooper) and best actor (for Colin Firth as a stammering King George VI). The film had just won top honors from the Producers Guild of America over the weekend, and emerged as the leader in an unusually competitive pack of contenders for the best picture Oscar.