March 03, 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech (2010)

I don't know what I was picturing from the film The King's Speech (2010). I knew it was about British royalty and someone with a stammer. For whatever reason, I pictured a stodgy film about people dressed up in period costume walking around in gloomy British rainy weather. I think it was because of reading a review, which mentioned the main character was King George VI. Whenever I picture kingly-type people, I picture people dressed in tights and a furry cape, looking surly and uncomfortable.

 Blessedly, The King's Speech was about a king who lived in 1939 and didn't wear tights or a cape. King George VI (Colin Firth) seems so normal. He's a blustery, humble man with a temper, which is especially triggered by a long line of speech therapists who are hired to "cure him" of his stammer. Good ol' 'enry 'iggins tried to make Eliza Doolittle speak better by making her talk with marbles in her mouth, and apparently this was a popular technique used by speech therapists round the world. Maybe the reason this king seems so likable is that he never wanted to be king. Before he was King, he was Prince Albert, Duke of York. He only became King because his brother gave up his title to marry an "unsuitable."


His ever-supportive wife (Helena Bonham Carter) believes that somewhere there must someone who can help her husband. That someone ends up being Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist who fancies himself a part-time thespian, as well. The men work together to help the future king learn techniques that he can use when making speeches. These range in entertainment value from talking with someone sitting on you to squatting and standing alternately to cursing to singing.

Above all, this is a story of triumph and facing your demons. The performances are all standouts. Colin Firth is magnificent. What the man must have gone through to learn how to stutter one cannot imagine. He becomes this character. He is this character. Geoffrey Rush makes a worthy match to this King. He refuses to cater to the King's usual rules of deference and, therefore, wins the King's respect.

Some very interesting things:
 I didn't know a lot of the psychosis behind the stutter or stammer. I didn't realize, for instance, that no one is born stuttering. The King George character is a victim of repression. There are things he went through as a child that caused the onset of this debilitating issue.


In the last scene when Firth's character is making his speech via radio, the song playing was composed by Beethoven, who also had an interesting issue being a musical composer who happened to be deaf. I thought the choice of music added another dimension to the final speech.

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