With a line before me boasting a median age of 60, I entered the theatre with the expectations of the crowd I had been with while watching “The Queen” so many years ago. That is…subtly subdued and borderline regal. Afterall, this movie was another take on the British Monarchy. Not just any take…but a take on King George VI’s stutter and how he overcame this oral disability during a very trying time in England’s history: the onset to World War II. I would be pleasantly wrong on that supposition. Before I get into it further, check out the trailer on the left menu over there or just click here.
From the opening scene where the Duke of York (not quite King yet) tried to force his tongue around a speech, I could feel his pain. I have been struck by debilitating fear when faced with a crowd. I recall one instance in particular where I had written this great paper in Grade 8 about the Third Reich (coincidentally) that had been chosen as one of three to represent my school in a regional competition. The one caveat is that I had to read it in front of an auditorium of peers. I was excited to hear I was chosen but elated I had to speak in front of the entire school. I wrestled with my demons and my demons eventually won. I pulled out of the competition. So we only ended up with two representatives instead of one. Never did learn how we did. But I promised myself that I’d spend as much time as it took to overcome that fear/shyness.
The Duke (played amazingly by Colin Firth) had no such option. It had become his duty to deliver speeches as a representative for the monarchy. However, he had the buffer of his brother as heir to the Throne. So he’d never need to deliver a great number of talking engagements and hide his impediment the best he could. And considering that this is all historical fact and on record, I wouldn’t consider it a spoiler to say that fate had other plans.
With some caring urgings of his wife (soon-to-be Queen Elizabeth played by Helena Bonham-Carter), the Duke employed the help of speech coach, Lionel Logue (the brilliant Geoffrey Rush), who pushed His Royal Highness outside his comfort zones embracing his weaknesses and using it to make him a better orator.
I never had any such guide in my battle against shyness other than myself when I decided on a whim to audition for an acting program at a prestigious university. If accepted, I’d have three (potentially four) years of forced onslaught against my enemy. I got in despite using a Simpsons tune as my audition song piece where it was just simple enough and silly enough to make an impression. It worked. I got accepted and met who was to become the most influential person in my life up to that point, the late Patrick Christopher. He was a bard who never achieved his full potential yet he accomplished exactly what he set his mind to…which is more than a lot of us can say. He brought me outside of my comfort zones and he saw something in me that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time: that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, that the only limitations where set by myself and that the “fear” was only an excuse to not to do things I really wanted to do. I graduated not living up to the stamp I wanted to leave in university but still left with new found energy and a oyster-world full of pearls to shuck loose.
The Duke became King George VI by some questionable and selfish choices (by the Prince and not the Duke) and all of a sudden he became the “voice of the people”…the exact thing he wanted to avoid. Thankfully, Lionel was always at his side as a sage and crutch to help him learn to stand on his own. Lionel used methods I learned during those years in university that really struck home and the reason why I’m relating a part of myself in this exposition of thoughts. But to be fair, all writers put a piece of themselves in everything they write whether they admit it or not.
I will end the plot narrative at this point for the sake of trying to coax you all into giving this simply breathtaking movie a try.
The King’s Speech takes easy liberties on the King’s and Lionel’s relationship intermingled with the backdrop of WWII. Most surprising of all, this movie is really really funny in that endearing Forrest Gump kinda way. Not to compare the King to Gump in character! HA-HA! (Please don’t chop off my hea, Red Queen.) I’m just talking about the great (intentional) unintentional humour of it all.
Also, I don’t mean to talk only about Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush’s stupendous portrayals of the two main characters. Helena Bonham-Carter deserves an Oscar nod for her take on the conservative yet independent Queen Elizabeth, Guy Pearce as the King’s brother, King Edward VIII, who’s personal choices made him lose the Throne, and Michael “Dumbledore” Gambon as the father of the two, King George V, who expressed “sink-or-swim” tough love on them both.
When the lights rose in the theatre, the audience erupted in honest and enthusiastic applause. Something I rarely see with movies anymore. The last time I applauded at a movie was probably at The Dark Knight. And that speaks volumes about The King’s Speech.
It’s an amazing movie hidden behind a boring title. It’ll probably be the best movie you’ve seen in awhile.
(And for those who want to know how I turned out…I may get into it at another review someday. But I’d like to still say “Thanks Patrick”)
9.8 bouts of forced Tourette’s out of 10