We finally saw the multiple-Oscar nominee The King’s Speech. What a great movie! I had expected in this account of King George VI and his speech therapist a light-hearted and humorous ‘enry ‘iggens My Fair Lady story in reverse. But it was so much more than that, an in-depth character study of the king’s second son, so dominated by his royal father and tormented by his shallow elder brother that he suffers from a major speech impediment, a problem with stuttering that is deadly when, as a royal, you have to make speeches all the time.
But then his brother , now King Edward, abdicates the throne so that he can marry his floozy American girlfriend (something not allowed for the head of the Church of England since she had been divorced, and more than once). Now Bertie is King George VI, just as World War II is breaking out. (His eldest daughter is Princess and later-to-be Queen Elizabeth.)In a time of radio demagogues such as Hitler, the King of England must hold the nation and the Empire together, largely by means of radio broadcasts. But he freezes and stammers when he has to speak in public. His Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, has to not only teach him to speak fluently, but, in doing so, he must help him get to the root of his royal neuroses.
The movie is absolutely compelling. Not just for its speech therapy but as a political tale and a glimpse into the unique pressures and miseries of royalty. No explosions, nobody got killed, no sex scenes, some therapeutic bad language, and lots of brilliant performances. I saw a whole slew of Masterpiece Theater veterans, including an elderly and barely-recognizable Anthony Andrews (remember when he was the young rake on the good production of Brideshead Revisited?) and a Derek Jacobi, who, now that he is actually old, looks just like the cosmetically-produced old Emperor that he played in the final episodes of I, Claudius. But the performances of Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Logue just killed.