Among tried-and-true formulas for an effective, Oscar-candidate movie, the most reliable often concern either the activities of an ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances or those of an extraordinary person challenged by the ordinary. Like The Queen before it, The King's Speech, a stately, carefully crafted specimen of a satisfying formula movie well positioned for the awards attention being heaped upon it, opts for the second variation and grounds the emotional drama in historical fact. In a performance of nuance and soul that would be more astonishing only if we hadn't become almost spoiled by expecting such quality from him, Colin Firth plays Prince Albert, who suddenly became Great Britain's King George VI when his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936. King George was royalty, true. But he was also a private man whom his family called Bertie — and Bertie had a debilitating speech impediment that tormented him for much of his life. Even a king can have a common stutter, this sturdy backstairs-at-the-palace drama assures. Even a king could do with some trusted help. Even a king must find his own voice.
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