2010. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter. Directed by Tom Hooper.
I finally got to see The King’s Speech this past Sunday. It was magnificent!! No huge special effects, just brilliant actors bringing characters to life – and this time the characters happened to be real people.
My friend and I had planned to go Friday evening, but there was an error in the published movie showtimes, so we postponed until Sunday afternoon. We got to the theater about 20 or 25 minutes before the movie was to start and I noticed the cineplex was much more crowded than usual for a Sunday matinee. While I was in line to get a soda, I overheard several people talking about how they had wanted to see this movie the day before, but all the showings were SOLD OUT. The theater was already half full when we went in to get seats and the overwhelming majority of people there were older, gray-haired, senior citizens. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I plan to join that demographic myself at some point in the far distant future.)
For only the second time in the 8 years I’ve been patronizing that particular cineplex (trust me, that’s a lot of movies), a manager came in down front before the movie started and announced that the theater was sold out. She asked that we please all move in to the center of our row so no random empty seats would be left unoccupied and all ticket holders could be accommodated. The other movie where I experienced such an announcement was Pirates of the Caribbean II, Dead Man’s Chest (2006) on opening day.
The movie was incredibly absorbing, thanks to the performances of both Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. And it was quite a learning experience for me; I didn’t know Geoffrey Rush was Australian. He certainly didn’t “sound” Australian to me in this movie, or any other that I can think of right now. It was also a slice of history set in a time when other major world events tended to overshadow this very personal story. I knew that Edward the Whatever had abdicated in order to marry that American divorcee, but I had no idea why it was considered necessary or how his actions impacted Bertie (and Bertie’s family) who never thought he’d have to do any “kinging.”
What does a shy younger brother with a crippling speech impediment (who has lived his life in the shadow of his handsome, witty, and outspoken older brother The King) do when he suddenly and reluctantly finds the monarchy thrust upon him? How can he address his subjects – repeatedly – on the radio in a time of national crisis when he can barely force out two intelligible words in a conversation? Luckily, his loving and understanding wife had enough common sense to seek a solution. And then enough determination to help him stick with it when quitting seemed the only alternative to overwhelming humiliation and frustration.
Geoffrey Rush as the unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue is a great match for Colin Firth’s George VI. The methods he employed to enable the King to speak in public were always audacious and often well beyond inappropriate, but very effective. In order to accomplish what had to be done, the king’s therapist had to have a special relationship with him. A true friendship grew between them, despite the awkwardness of their social status and the need for absolute secrecy about the treatment for stuttering. At times Logue even goaded the king into outbursts of anger, demonstrating how his speech patterns were more natural and lacked any stammer when he wasn’t so self-conscious. Rush was brilliant as the man who was happy to balance the precarious requirements of his daunting task.
When it was over and credits started to roll there was scattered applause that quickly swelled into an enormous demonstration of gratitude for such a wonderful movie viewing experience. You would have thought that the audience was trying to coax a theater company into taking another bow! It really was that good.