This is a rare case of a movie actually being better than its generally favorable reviews. The story is less about the monarchy, and more about a man dealing with a disability in an era when folks with disabilities were hidden away (like George’s younger brother) or took great pains to disguise their problem (like FDR). The interplay between Colin Firth (as the Duke of York, later King George VI) and Geoffrey Rush (as his speech therapist) is a delight, and there are so many fine British actors in small roles it’s almost like a Harry Potter reunion. And the portrayal of Edward as a spoiled,stupid man, whose abdication was less about romance than it was a fit of childish pique, was spot on. (Edward’s “go-along, get-along” attitude towards “Herr Hitler” was so embarrassing that, after the war started, he was packed off to the Bahamas for the duration).
But the thing you don’t get from the reviews is the film’s humor. The Duke and his speech therapist, in a class-ridden society, had to struggle to form a relationship, and that led to many amusing moments having to do with who got to smoke, for example, or who got to yell expletives at the top of his lungs. After the King’s first radio speech announcing war, Lionel tells George that he was still having problems with his “w’s.” “I did that on purpose,” said George, “so people would know it was me.” Priceless.