Review: The King's Speech
"Some have greatness thrust upon them," Shakespeare once observed. His words aptly describe Prince Albert's journey to become King George VI of England. The King's Speech follows the struggles of Albert to overcome a debilitating speech handicap in order to lead his nation through the dark days of World War II.
Albert never wanted to become king. His older brother, Edward, was first in line to the throne. Edward was the perfect choice compared to Albert whose stutter seemed incurable. But Albert's wife, Elizabeth, discovered an Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, of questionable methods and even more questionable qualifications. He was just the friend the future king needed.
This inspiring story won The King's Speech twelve Oscar nominations. The film was in good hands with director Tom Hooper. Hooper directed the John Adams miniseries and won an Emmy for Elizabeth I.
David Seidler's screenplay bristles with a dry English humor. When Logue asks Albert if he knows any jokes, the Prince replies, "Timing isn't my strong suit." Yet, the subtle humor does not overpower the story. Seidler script engages all of his sympathies – he too suffered from a stutter as a child.
The strong rapport between Colin Firth (who plays Prince Albert) and Geoffrey Rush (as Lionel Logue) drive the film. Logue calls Albert by his Christian name, in defiance of royal etiquette. Logue knows that in order to truly help the Prince, Albert must see Logue not as his doctor, but as his friend.
The King's Speech is a classic underdog story where an unlikely hero is faced with nearly insurmountable odds. It is said that Prince Albert wept when he learned that his brother Edward abdicated the throne in order to marry the American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. The introduction of the radio meant that Albert must speak publicly to the people. Without Logue's help, perhaps Prince Albert would also have abdicated the throne.
However, Albert's courage to conquer his defect proved that he was more than worthy to lead a nation. Indeed, through his friendship with Logue, Albert truly came to know and respect the common Englishman, a class of people the royalty rarely rubbed shoulders with.
At one point, he angrily asks Logue, "If I am king, where is my power? Can I declare war? No! And yet … they think that when I speak, I speak for them." By the time the film reaches its climax, we know that King George VI does speak for all English people – both the commoner and the aristocrat and all who have conquered adversity. His is a story of triumph.
Because of its World War II setting, The King's Speech is elevated to a parable for the indomitable will of the English people. Though the darkness of Nazi Germany nearly overwhelmed their small island, they too would stand firm and triumph.
[The King's Speech is rated R for language. Executive producer Harvey Weinstein is considering re-cutting the movie for a PG-13 rating and re-releasing it in theaters this February.]