The King’s Speech

As an American the idea of a monarchy seems… well, kind of odd. I don’t mean that in any dismissive or insulting way, but from a cultural standpoint it’s a bit strange. You see, as you may or may not be aware, the US doesn’t have a monarchy and we worked pretty hard to reach that point so the idea of someone who God chose to be the ruler of my nation is about as foreign a concept as calling cookies biscuits and fries chips.

The idea is kind of surreal to me. My first trip to London I overheard an older British woman explaining that she still has a hard time using the word “citizen,” as she had always been taught that she was a “British subject.”

It’s fascinating. We do have our version of it here in the US. I mean we kind of hold famous people in a similar light, but we don’t really have anything on the Brits.

However, this cultural difference did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of “The King’s Speech.” Kind of a weak segue I know, but work with me. To give you some perspective, I had no idea who the previous Monarch of the Realm was. Basically, if the name isn’t connected to a movie, Shakespeare play, or my countries revolution I don’t know much about them.

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This movie shows how much weight can be given to a pretty simple relationship. Think about it. A guy has a stutter and he goes to a doctor for help. No biggie. Make that “guy” the face of the monarchy and suddenly you got yourself a ballgame.

As I said before, I have no real knowledge or feelings towards the British monarchy. As I see it it’s nothing more than a very wealthy person with a title, but no real job beyond making speeches, going on holiday (from what I’m not quite sure), and attending polite parties.

The strength of this movie is in the relationships. No big surprise there. However, if those relationships were not as strongly developed and as solidly presented this film would fall flat on its face.

Geoffrey Rush is fantastic (I realize this is kind of a non statement, he’s always good) in his role as the therapist who takes on the daunting task of giving his nation a clear voice. He strikes the balance between the awe and respect of a subject and the commanding presence of a therapist. Think how hard it must be to pull off the dynamic of being both subordinate and superior to a person at the same time. Sounds hard, right? Well, he pulls it off brilliantly.

Helena Bonham-Carter acquits herself wonderfully as the Queen. She is as loving and supportive a wife as one could hope for and her absolute love for her husband is undeniable.

Then you have Colin Firth, all talented and handsome. I’ve said it before and will say it again; this will be the first of multiple Oscars for this man. He is as brilliant as you have come to expect him to be. He strikes that delicate balance between a man who is terrified of the responsibilities of his position while knowing that he is the right man for that position with a skill that is nothing short of masterful. This performance doesn’t have any tricks or flash, but it has all the weight and power. It is all steak and minimal sizzle.

I think most people view being King or Queen as a really glamorous job, but I’ve never seen it that way. I mean, no matter how famous or lauded an actor or a salesman or a doctor becomes their children are not required by law or custom to refer to them as “Oscar Winner” or “Midwestern Regional Salesperson of the Quarter,” or “Wisconsin Society of Dermatologists Notable Member.” You personally might require this, but that just makes you strange. If you’re King then your children have to call you “Your Majesty” and bow or curtsy when you enter the room. Nice as that might sound, it would be a bit strange.

This isn’t a job you can just quit. Yes, you can abdicate, but you’re still a part of it. The only way out is to die. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel sorry for them. The unrealistic wealth and privilege makes up for a lot of this, but it’s still really surreal to think about.

That is something this film captures beautifully (the only other one I’ve seen recently to do it as well is “The Queen”). It shows how difficult your life can be when you’re never the equal of anyone in the room, when you are seen as the face of a nation, and when every word you say is taken as the voice of your country.

My colonial predilections aside I found “The King’s Speech” to be one of the most engaging, moving, and entertaining films I’ve seen in quite some time.



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