The day after I saw The King’s Speech, I realized that I had not told my readers that I did a podcast last month, but what a pompous way to bring a personal touch to such a wonderful film. King George VI was royalty pushed to be a world leader who had to courageously work through his debilitating stammer. I’m an out of work twenty-something who places her restless fingers on a keyboard to feel a sense of purpose. When that somehow attracted the attention of the good people at Film School Rejects, I was honestly taken aback when they wanted me to be a guest on their weekly podcast. A big part of me wanted to turn them down, I’m much more comfortable being precisely manicured text rather than a revealing voice, with my tongue rushing ahead of my mind, being sent straight to ears all over the world. But I knew I would only regret letting the opportunity go. I hardly slept the night before and as I tried to calm a few nerves with a beer before going live on the air, I only felt sick. Somehow, I made it through and didn’t make too much of an ass out of myself. Thing is, I don’t have a stammer, the world wasn’t hanging on my every word and I’m no one of much importance. But both King George VI and I had that crippling sense of self doubt and a fear of revealing our voices. His story is inspiring enough for me to come out and reveal mine, have a go at it if you’d like.
In the past, it seems that all monarchs had to do for their subjects was look royal, but with modern era inventions, such as radio and television, they’re suddenly called up on to do more. To speak in public, to address the entire nation and to let the coronation become a filmed public spectacle. The monarchs are expected to be more than images that represent all of England, but a voice. That would be perfectly fine if one were good at public speaking, but unfortunately ‘Bertie’ (Colin Firth), the future King George VI, has a terrible stammer. And with Hitler’s powerful speeches spreading his influence, the King will need to speak well enough to rally his country in a time of crisis.
He has seen every speech therapist knighted under the crown, but his wife, the future Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), has found one last unorthodox hope. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) guarantees that he can help with breathing techniques, loosening up body and mind, gaining some confidence and in turn gaining a friend.
But Bertie is one tough monarch to crack. Firth portrays him as so much more than a stutterer, but a man who is under tremendous pressure and it’s his birthright job to not show it. It doesn’t help that he compensates for this his vulnerlbility by being stubborn, having a temper and being pretty bleak about his condition. A future king is not the type who can easily open up about his insecurities, but it’s amazing and heartfelt to watch Firth move his character forward to face his condition. It’s not the perfectly executed stammer that sets Firth’s performance apart from the rest, but everything he uses to make King George VI a flesh and blood man. If two weeks from now, Colin Firth is not holding an Oscar, I will be speechless.
One of my favorite scenes was when Lionel has the King and Queen at his house one night. He has not told his family that he is treating the King and has arranged the lesson around a time when they would have the house to themselves, but suddenly his wife comes home to find Her Majesty sitting at the table drinking tea. Hilariously, Lionel panics, presses himself against the wall in the other room to hide, afraid of how to explain this to his wife and it’s Bertie who has to push him out. It’s wonderful to see the roles reversed between Lionel and Bertie, even for a funny and trivial moment, and it really shows the extension of their friendship.
In the end, The King’s Speech is about more than a stammering monarch, but a testament to that personal type of bravery and support that helps us all stay strong in crucial moments. If The Academy is looking to award a film that mixes history, friendship and inspiring courage, The King’s Speech will surely win Best Picture.
“-How do you feel?
–Full of hot air.
-Isn’t that what public speaking is all about?”