I should preface this post by mentioning the fact that I was not one of the many film critics that rushed to theaters to see The King's Speech. Nor was I moved to see it when it won its Golden Globe and Academy Awards. It became an addition to that list of movies that I affectionately call "The Pile" - that dreaded stack of DVDs of films that may be critically lauded, yet I still somehow avoid watching them. So I found myself the night before last watching one such film from this pile. And my, how I wish I had not waited!
Tom Hooper won the Academy Award for Best Director for The King's Speech, yet I would say that direction had not so much to do with it as the incredible acting by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Of course Firth won awards for his performance as King George VI (or "Bertie", as the Duke of York was called by his family), yet Rush's heartfelt and passionate performance as speech therapist Lionel Logue is the one that captured my attention. The devotion he had towards Bertie and his commitment towards helping him develop confidence as a leader solidify Logue as the true hero of the story.
For a title such as "The King's Speech", this movie is really not at all about the King's speech. At it's heart Hooper weaves a tale about fear, friendship and loyalty. The friendship that develops between Logue and the King is definitely strained at first, but as Bertie learns to communicate with Logue, he also comes face to face with his insecurities as a son living up to his father's goals, his fears as a new King, and his pride as someone that can relate to the common man. This was perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the story. While it certainly took liberties with historical accuracy for the sake of storytelling, I still loved the exploration of King George as a human with his own faults.
One of the truths that Logue taught Bertie was his value as a human with a voice. He was not to be listened to because he was King, or because he was living in his father's shadow; but rather because Bertie was a fellow person that people wanted to relate to. In a sense Logue was the prototype British citizen for this ideal. By showing the king that he could open up and confidently communicate with Logue, his ability to connect with the nation was revealed. In a time of trial such as World War II, this is exactly what England needed- a King whom they could relate to, whom they could trust, whom they knew was going to be a strong leader even in the midst of darkness.
The transformation from the stammering, insecure and angry Duke of York into the inwardly confident king is enjoyable and touching to watch, from his rather uncouth speech lessons all the way to his leadership during a war. At the same time serious and endearing, "The King's Speech" is a delightful look inside the human psyche featuring stellar performances all across the board ( and I can't forget to mention Helena Bonham Carter as a fabulous Queen Elizabeth). If you haven't already, check this film out.
("The King's Speech" is rated R for some language. Be sure to preview before family viewing, as a couple of sequences feature a brief (albeit funny) barrage of profanity to loosen the King's tongue. Easily mutable, this scene should not prevent anyone from seeing it.)