Speech impediments are a horrible thing to deal with, I’d imagine. And I’d imagine they are far, far worse if you’re the titular leader of 1/4 of the world. That’s the situation faced by King George VI in The King’s Speech.
George VI (Colin Firth), called “Bertie” through most of the film, was never meant to be king. His brother, David, was the one who was meant to be king, but no one, including his father, seemed to feel he was up to the task. Everyone seemed to have the opinion that Bertie would at least be there to advise the king and would hopefully help him to be better. This all changed when David, who came to the throne as Edward VIII, abdicated to be with the woman he loved, thus making Bertie king. This was something of a problem for young Bertie on several levels, not the least of which was the fact that he had a severe speech impediment.
That impediment is the focus of this film. We see the future king and his wife (Helena Bohnam Carter), reaching their wit’s end in trying to get help to correct his problems. Out of desperation, she seeks out an Australian actor/speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). He’s a man of extraordinary methods and boldly claims that he can cure the problem. Eventually, through a mix of psychology and friendship, he’s able to make very real progress.
This is one of those great English movies that uses their unique institution of royalty and uses it well. Much like The Queen, which focused on George VI’s daughter, we see a fairly dysfunctional family that’s lead by someone who, in theory, wields tremendous power but by law has that power severely limited. It makes for great, quiet drama and more than a little humor, particularly in what I shall refer to as “the Tourette’s scene”.
And speaking of that… this movie is rated R. It’s got that rating because of two scenes where there’s a copious amount of swearing. This is flat-out stupid. It should have been rated PG13 with a warning about the language. There is nothing, nothing at all, that makes this a film that’s inappropriate for anyone above the age of ten or so, but since the MPAA is what it is, it got an R rating. Stupid.
This is one of those movies that can’t really be improved, except perhaps with a somewhat longer run-time. I liked it and I would have liked to have seen more of it. It’s easily the second best film of the year, and will likely earn Oscars for Firth, Rush and Carter. Really, it’s just a great movie and I’m glad I went to the extra trouble of seeing it.