By Carolyn Williams
Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” is a touching gem of a movie in this year’s batch of Oscar-worthy films. The main character is, of course, King George VI (Colin Firth), but for much of the movie he is only the innocuous Bertie, an ex-naval officer and the Duke of York.
Bertie, the second son of King George V, has spent his entire life in the shadow of his more dynamic older brother, David (Guy Pearce), the Prince of Wales, and has subsequently developed a crippling stutter. After many embarrassing public speaking incidents and years of seeking help from innumerable specialists, all to no avail, Bertie gives up and asks his supportive wife (Helena Bonham Carter) to stop her search for a truly helpful speech therapist.
Despite Bertie’s lack of confidence, the Duchess believes she may have found the right match for her husband’s problem in the enthusiastic and unorthodox ex-actor turned elocution specialist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Bertie struggles to open up to Lionel’s unusual and somewhat invasive therapy, but over time, the pair begin to build a veritable friendship, overcoming differences in class and situation, and undeniably strengthening Bertie’s self-confidence.
After the death of their father, the rather wild David is crowned King Edward VIII, but much to the chagrin of his very proper brother and sister-in-law, continues dallying with an American divorcée named Wallis Simpson. The law prohibits that England’s sovereign and head of its church marry a divorced woman, but David protests he cannot give Wallis up. After a year on the throne, David is forced to abdicate his reign in order to avoid government uproar, thrusting the mantle of king onto the unwilling and terrified Bertie.
Convinced that he is unfit to be king, but obligated by honor and family duty, Bertie assumes his role as King George VI, the job made more difficult by approaching war with Germany. His speech impediment remains a problem–remains the focus of the film, in fact–and Logue continues to coach the new king up until the climactic moment of his first-ever wartime speech.
Though the film itself is definitely one of the best of 2010, some moviegoers claim the film did not command the attention of its audience with the tenacity of its competitors.
“Although audience opinions regarding the film’s ‘excitement’ factor range from dull to riveting, when asked to rate the film’s conviction, results would probably be unanimously high. While I felt that the subject matter of ‘The King’s Speech’ was rather bland, its level of execution and ability to transport me to that time period was extraordinary,” Monica Burney ’14 said.
“The King’s Speech” is definitely a moving film, if not a gripping one. The cast is superb, and Oscar nominations to Firth for Best Actor and Bonham Carter and Rush for Best Supporting Actress and Actor are undoubtedly well-merited. The film garnered 12 nods in total, including the coveted Best Picture and Best Director nominations. Specifically, Colin Firth’s commitment to his role as the stuttering, unconfident Bertie is terrific, successfully breaking out of his typecast as Mr. Darcy, in which many have assumed him to be stuck since the BBC’s 1995 “Pride and Prejudice.”
“’The King’s Speech’ is splendidly performed and guaranteed to entertain all audiences. I left the movie speechless,” Ava Giuliano ’14 said.