See the year’s best – hands-down, far and away – period drama

You’d think that a movie about some mid-20th-century king—Elizabeth II’s father, whom very few Americans have even heard of–would be a total snooze. But The King’s Speech (out Nov. 26) is utterly fascinating. Directed by Tom Hooper (The Damned United, HBO’s John Adams), it tells a true story (one we’d never heard before) set on the eve of World War II, full of drama and humor and so moving it nearly brought us to tears (and then delivered a genuinely happy ending).

Colin Firth’s performance—and pitch-perfect enactment of King George VI’s stutter–is a tour de force. Geoffrey Rush, who plays the king’s Australian speech therapist, is as lovable and delightful as ever. Helena Bonham Carter’s star turn as the Queen Mum makes you see the actress, and the character she’s playing, in a completely new light. And the occasionally mannered Guy Pearce is terrific as George’s feckless and unlikable pretty boy of an older brother, Edward VIII. Timothy Spall’s Winston Churchill is the only caricature, and the only false note, in this splendid new film.

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