Sunday, January 9, 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Last night, my husband and I went to the The King's Speech, the movie about how Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue helped King George VI overcome his stammer when he was forced to give public speeches upon gaining the throne after the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII.  Like almost all the critics, we loved this movie.  It features terrific actors, it captures the look and feel of the time perfectly, it is based on true events, and it has an uplifting ending.  My husband and I don't get out to the movies much, but if we do, this is exactly the kind of movie I want to see.

The subject matter is appropriate for middle school and high school students.  It provides some background on the lead up to World War II, and certainly gives Americans a better picture of the family of the current Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, and of the institution of monarchy altogether.  Even more importantly, I think it gives some great lessons about heroism.  It is a wonderful example of how we might admire someone famous or from a famous family or with a lot of power, and never realize that they, just like all of us, have their own challenges to overcome, their own demons to face.  Colin Firth's "Bertie" is a man who is surrendered to his duty, who is noble and persistent and struggles to live up to what his nation and his people need him to be, even if it is not the path he would have chosen for himself.  Helen Bonham Carter makes a wonderful wife to the would-not-be King, sweet and strong and stoic and compassionate all at once.  (Her performance is especially delightful since the last time we saw her, she was playing Bellatrix Lestrang in the latest Harry Potter movie, where she is pretty much the polar opposite of the role she plays here.)  And Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue is an eccentric commoner who never loses his dignity and refuses to be pushed around in the face of the royal juggernaut of honors and procedures, facing down the issues of power and class differences that were quite a big deal at the time.  It is really a film about everyone striving to be their best selves under trying circumstances, which is a message that none of us, but especially our middle and high school students, can hear often enough.

The issue in sharing this movie with students, however, are several instances of extreme profanity.  The swearing scenes, which are a great contrast to the language in the rest of the movie, serve a dramatic purpose.  Nonetheless, many of us may not feel comfortable taking our children to a movie with language that is profane enough to have earned the film an R rating.

So you may have to wait until it comes out on DVD, and then fast forward over a couple of bits.  Other than that, however, it is a great movie for teaching students a variety of lessons, historical and otherwise.


  1. Profanity has a special role in speech training, because apparently it works differently from the rest of the language, in many disorders. F-word plays a special (brief, but important) role in the movie "Aphasia" we loved, made by a local community: I find the related psychology and neurology fascinating.

    Thank you for the recommendation. I started a speech improvement journey this Fall, and it's been meaningful in deep ways.

  2. Yes, the use of profanity in this movie is definitely not gratuitous; it serves both a dramatic purpose and relates to the scientific truth about this issue.

    Thanks for the link to the movie, Aphasia--it looks like a very good film.

  3. I agree with everything you said Carol except what you think is the theme of the movie. Don't you think the theme of perseverance and bond of friendship (where both parties are starkly aware of each others flaws) are the film's themes? i love, love, love, this movie! i was goin to take Ben but Sam was home so the two of us went (ben went to the Number 4 with his school's book club). I will see it again, though.

  4. First, I think a great movie, just like a great book, can be interpreted differently by people, so I don't think it is a matter of one "correct" theme. Plus, our themes are definitely related.

    But to me, the critical question is the character's motivation. I don't think Bertie's goal was really to stop stuttering. I think that, left on his own, he and his wife had accepted it. I think his driving force was to do his duty. So he was fine to be the younger son and do the things that the minor royals are supposed to do. But, as Shakespeare said, "Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." When the crown is suddenly thrust upon him, without any expectation or desire on his part, and with Hitler coming England's way, Albert (now King George) was committed to being the leader his people needed at that time. And that required overcoming his stuttering, being that he was king in the radio age.

    So that's why I see it as people rising up to the occasion--not just Albert/George, but Elizabeth and Lionel as well. That makes it a hero movie for me. But that certainly required persistence, and created a remarkable friendship, so those factors are involved as well.

    When I think about movies about perseverance, I think of the movie Rudy, a tear-jerker (my eyes are watering just thinking about it) about a kid who wanted to play football for Notre Dame, despite all the factors against him.

    Whatever it is--we need more movies about perserverance, and friendship, and heroism.

  5. We loved it on so many levels! First there were so many familiar actors--Beatrix of course, and Peter Pettigrew as Churchill and Dumbeldore as King George V, and Anthony Edwards (of masterpiece theaters) as Baldwin. Then there was Geoffrey Rush! What a great face and heart that man has. I loved the movie most for their honest friendship and for the insight on the hell it is to be royal. And the profanity--it was the best part. Swearing while dancing! We met up with another homeschooler who will remain nameless-a quite young one who didn't recognize the last swear word the King used (the one that rhymed with "hits"). This child turned to his father and asked "What'd he say--kittens???" "Later" his Dad said. Priceless.

  6. That's true, I had almost forgotten about Timothy Spall. It is almost as big a stretch to go from Peter Pettigrew to Winston Churchill as to go from the crazy evil witch to the loving and proper queen! But I think I still have to give the prize to HBC.

    And thanks for the cute anecdote. Like you said, priceless.