Movie Review: The King's Speech (2010)
You would think that being a king would be one of the best jobs in the world. All that pomp, all that circumstance, all that traveling and waving seems so easy. After seeing The King's Speech, you actually feel more sorry for the people that fortune seemed to have placed in that role.
My exposure to royalty is Cinderella's castle at Disney World. That's about it. I know that other countries, have kings and queens, but I've never really had any curiosity about them, so I did not know what to expect when I went to see the movie. The movie is about the royal family in Britain and is set prior to World War II when Hitler was making a fuss in Europe. It centers around a prince, Albert, who has a speech impediment, he stutters, a lot. (Prince Albert was the father of the current Queen Elizabeth.) Normally this wouldn't be a bad thing, but this was at a time when radio had become a big media tool for communicating to the masses, and having a stutter is the worst thing to have when you're trying to say a speech in front of hundreds if not thousands of people. Albert tries to do something about it because his father, King George, thinks it's important that he be able to sound like a king when he delivers a speech to his subjects on the microphone. The concern was that they would suffer what their family members suffered in Russia and Germany; in Russia, the royal family was murdered and in Germany, the king was deposed. Given those circumstances, it's understandable that King George wanted his sons to be in communication with the people. Albert hires a speech teacher from Australia to help him get rid of his stutter and eventually prepare him to make the biggest speech of his life: telling the country that they are going to war against Hitler because it's the right thing to do. It's a simple plot but the story behind it is riveting.
A Prince Becomes a King
Colin Firth, as Prince Albert, known as Bertie to family, does an amazing job of bringing this historic figure to life. Firth plays Albert as an everyman in a royal family who is forced to become a public figure. The huge insecurity and angst that caused Bertie's stutter seemed to be a result of childhood trauma when he suffered severe abuse as a child from his nanny, the distant relationship he had with his parents, the bullying he got from his big brother, and it seems the general lack of positive relationships and support. Yet in spite of all this, Bertie becomes a decent, upstanding man who has a devoted wife that serves as his wingman, two daughters who love him very much, and a deep sense of duty to his country and his role. His persistence and resilience allows him to overcome his stutter, with the help of effective but unconventional methods of his speech teacher and aspiring actor, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. The support that Bertie gets from his wife Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter, must have saved his sanity. While he is learning to be an effective speaker, a crisis occurs when his popular older brother, David, becomes king but refuses to stop cavorting with a twice divorced, American woman whom he loves but was unsuited for the role as queen of Britain. Wallis Simpson, the American that stole David's heart seems to be a slick, man-eating party girl -- completely not fit to be queen. The crisis erupts when David steps down and Bertie, as next in line, becomes king but doesn't have full popular support. While all this is happening, Hitler has been invading countries right and left and Britain's politicians have to declare war to stop him. Bertie, now a king, must deliver a speech to the people and several other countries (because Britain had an empire) letting them know that the empire is going to war and why. For Bertie this is the mother of all speeches. With the support of his wife, Elizabeth, and Lionel, he finally delivers a speech that commands the occasion.
It is a heartwarming story of quiet triumphs, humility, decency, and honor and it makes me wonder, why our society doesn't seem to produce enough people like Bertie. The King's Speech also gives a human side to history and we need more films like this as well.
The King's Speech subsequently won Academy Awards in 2011 for Best Picture, Best Actor: Colin Firth, Best Director: Tom Hooper, and Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler.
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