‘The King’s Speech’: A King Finds His Voice and a Nation Discovers Its Leader

Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter give the three best performances of the year in The King’s Speech, a British drama by director Tom Hooper about a somewhat forgotten figure in British history, King George VI, probably best known today as the father of Elizabeth II.

King George VI Struggles with a Stammer

All his life, Bertie (Firth), as the future king was known to his family, suffered from a terrible stammer that no amount of therapy or treatment could cure. As an adult, the years of useless sessions with countless doctors has the prince angry and defeated until his loving wife (Carter) hears about Lionel Logue (Rush), a failed Australian actor and speech therapist known for helping patients deemed by other doctors to be incurable. Begrudgingly, Bertie agrees and undergoes months of strenuous exercise from breathing training to oratory practices.

Bertie Becomes King

During this time his father (an imperious Michael Gambon) dies and his older brother David (crowned Edward VIII) becomes King, though his reign is short-lived. Enter Wallis Simpson, a twice divorced American socialite (incidentally born about 20 minutes from Chambersburg) who stole the Prince’s heart years earlier and is now becoming destructive to his new title. After less than a year on the throne, Edward abdicates, throws Bertie in the spotlight.

Continuing his speech lessons, the newly crowned King seems to be doing quite well with his stammer until a fellow in Germany decides to invade Poland and launches the continent into the Second World War. When his country needs him most, will the King be able to muster the courage and strength necessary to give a globally broadcasted speech on the position England has in this war?

Inspiring Drama Satisfies Audience

While many do not know the history of the royals during the war, the final twenty or so minutes will be quite suspenseful, which is an odd thing to say about a period piece that could have been as stiff as pressed flowers. But Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler have crafted a movie of surprising depth. Overall, it is a drama, but when it needs to be funny (like when Bertie has no difficulty stammering when he swears), it is funny. It also has traces of a romance: the love story between the Prince and his wife and Logue with his wife. But overall it is a story of inspiration and overcoming insurmountable hardships (whether it is defeating Hitler or a speech impediment).

Simply, it is the kind of movie they do not make anymore, which may be one of the reasons it was a surprise box-office smash. And while there will always be detractors that say The Social Network should have taken home the top prize at the Oscars, there is no denying the effect this film has on you once the credits start rolling.

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