I am going to take the time I have on Winter break to write as many blogs as I can. Yesterday I saw The King’s Speech. I went in knowing very little about it, besides that it was about England’s current Queen Elizabeth’s father and he had a speech impediment. I was completely wowed by this film, such a simple premise and so much depth beneath that surface.
I am going to simply talk about the characters as I did with True Grit. This movie was filled with actors I know to be excellent, particularly Geoffrey Rush who is a personal favorite. And though I have always loved Colin Firth and found him adorable, I was never convinced he was an amazing actor. Throughout the years he stayed in kind of a safe box with and didn’t do very many roles outside of that. He always was recognizably Colin Firth with the same mannerisms, vocal tone, and same expressionless face. (sorry Colin!) But more recently he has really broken out of that mold and has grown to be great at his craft. I think chiefly in his roles as the Dutch painter in Girl With a Pearl Earring and this film, The King’s Speech. I also heard he was extraordinary in A Single Man, but I really had no desire to see that one. Anyway, in this film he stunned me with his ability to not only pull strenuous emotion from himself, but also from me, the viewer.
Although all the actors were great including Helena Bonham Carter as his adorable but often times pushy wife, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill (FTW!!!) no one stole the screen the way Colin Firth as King George the VI or “Bertie” and Geoffrey Rush as his eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue. These two had great chemistry and a believable friendship and admiration that will not only choke you up, but make you believe them every step of the way.
England in the 1930s: We follow Bertie as he stammers his way through life. This impediment keeps him from so many things, and principally, it humiliates him. He is everything a good man ought to be, a loving husband and father to his two girls (one of which is our current Queen Elizabeth of course, given away by her adorable Welsh Corgis in the film) and he also is a man of moral character and integrity. His wife Elizabeth is endearing and loves him very much, but smothers him in many ways, out of love, to push him to better himself and break free from the stranglehold his speech impediment has put on every aspect of his life.
Elizabeth stumbles upon Lionel Logue. Geoffrey Rush’s performance is flawless as the Australian speech therapist with slightly eccentric practices in therapy. Before you meet him, you hear him calling out from the loo, if that’s any indication of his adorable impropriety. Though she is first taken aback by Lionel, she likes his boldness and honesty and asks him when he can start.
In the scenes to follow Lionel and Bertie begin their “lessons” together. These scenes are filled to the brim with lusciously witty and bluntly hysterical dialogue. What is so astounding is that when Bertie is with Lionel he is totally stripped down and you see that his speech problem is the product of many years of neglect by those whom he needed most. We find out that as a child he was abused by his nanny who doted on his older brother David (played by Guy Pearce) but physically abused and starved Bertie, which later gave him health problems.
Though David is supposed to be king, he is a wild card that really cannot be trusted with anything. He runs around with a twice married and divorced woman of questionable character and takes no responsibility for the throne. This responsibility is then thrown upon Bertie who still a young prince inside needing to find his own manhood. He completely dissolves on screen under the weight of the tasks thrown at him and desperately needs someone to listen to him and let him be heard.
He finds that man in Lionel, and even though he insults and rejects Lionel at one point in the film, he later realizes that he was very wrong and that Lionel is the best and most caring friend to him. Lionel has no proper credentials, he’s not a doctor, and he is wonderfully silly (a washed up Shakespearean actor to boot!) but just like Bertie he is also a good husband and father and a man of integrity. What better counselor credentials are needed?
By the end of the film it’s clear that Bertie’s stammering wasn’t because he couldn’t speak but because he needed to be truly listened to. Lionel draws out his issues and makes him face them with courage. It’s absolutely beautiful. By the end of the film I was so moved by their friendship that it nearly brought me to tears. A perfect portrait of what a real, selfless friendship should be like.
I don’t know why I never heard much about either of these men until this film, but they were half as awesome as portrayed in this film I would surely love to read about them further. Not only was Bertie a man of integrity, who overcame a great obstacle, he helped his British people in their darkest hour during World War II. If a man like him ran for president in our country, he’d get my vote in a split second. This film shows that leadership and greatness come from within a man, from his heart, and not from his deeds or surface appearance.