Arriving on the scene like so much high-minded Oscar bait, The King's Speech is anything but a stiff-upper-lip drama as constrained as a corseted queen. It is, however, perfect film fodder for discerning audiences starved for literate entertainment. Director Tom Hooper and particularly screenwriter David Seidler manage to build a towering film from a historical footnote: the debilitating stammer that haunted Albert Frederick Arthur George (aka the Duke of York and then King George VI) since childhood and the efforts of speech therapist Lionel Logue to cure him of his affliction. The film is careful to paint in the historical details surrounding this character crisis — the support of George's wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the abdication of his brother Edward (Guy Pearce), the buildup toward World War II (Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill; love it!), etc. — but its best scenes are the ones centering solely on the unorthodox teacher and his quick-tempered student. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are accomplished actors on their own, but squaring off as, respectively, George VI and Lionel Logue elevates their game. It's no wonder that they deliver the two best male performances of the year.