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The King's Speech ****

Is it worth $10? Yes

It’s an oft-forgotten truism that we rarely know the people we look up to. They are icons, status symbols, figures on a lofty perch. And regardless of this they are always still, at their core, infallibly human. One of the best things about “The King’s Speech” – and there are many great things to say – is the way it relates to Great Britain’s King George VI (Colin Firth) as a person, flaws and all.

Being a public figure, his flaw is especially debilitating: He has a speech impediment, and it’s so bad that he avoids public speeches and appearances at all costs. For help his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), seeks out a speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), whose unconventional methods catch the king off guard.

The scenes between Firth and Rush are expertly acted: Their chemistry, timing, glances and intonations are so spot-on that you can definitely expect Oscar nominations for both. In particular, note the way Logue is respectful of His Majesty while being very frank with him – Logue feels an informal, personal level of communication is essential to treatment – and the way the King feels compelled to act regal even when vulnerable. Together they form the best duo on screen in 2010, and we can’t get enough of them.

Carter is a delight as the Queen Mother as well, always ready with a quip and to put “Bertie,” as George was known to his family (Albert was his real first name), in his place. Carter said she made this film during breaks from shooting “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” which means in the span of hours she would go from pure evil as Bellatrix Lestrange to kind, prim and resourceful as Elizabeth. Impressive indeed.

Tom Hooper (“John Adams”) directs the film with a quiet calm that is fitting for Britain in the 1930s, and he showcases the often foggy, rainy climate of London as a metaphor for Bertie’s mental state. But Hooper’s real accomplishment is this: He provides a great sense of the enormity of the speech Bertie has to give as his country is on the brink of war and Bertie needs to show strength. Hooper nicely balances shots of Bertie and Logue giving the speech with shots of people listening all over the world, which gives the audience the ability to see how well Bertie is doing. And because Firth and Rush are so good, we’re on the edge of our seats wanting him to succeed.

Some of David Seidler’s dialogue may sound a bit cheesy, and the musical score swells every time a dramatic moment occurs, but the drama, acting and directing are so good that you forgive the potential shortcomings with delight. “The King’s Speech” is one of the best and, perhaps even better, most fulfilling movies of the year.