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The Best of 2010: 'The King's Speech'

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The King's Speech


2010’s winner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, The King’s Speech is a testament to human perseverance and great inner strength. This is apparently a very sensitive subject for current Queen Elizabeth II who lived to see these events as a young girl. Her father, King George VI, who was commonly known as Bernie in his personal life, was an unfortunate stutterer. And this is a big problem for someone who is a potential king and a leader/role model to an entire nation.

Stuttering is something that people hardly talk about these days, for lack of a better description. It is a condition that can be treated through speech and elocution classes during childhood, but for some people stuttering is an extreme case of stress, nervousness, and inhibition. The film points to numerous examples throughout Bernie’s adult life that indicate he may have had countless bad experiences, whether they stemmed from his father’s scolding and verbal hammering to the inability to articulate the right retort at the right time. Colin Firth’s Oscar-winning performance as the man who would be king is, in one word, glorious. His tremendous vulnerability and lack of confidence translates so well to the screen that it is unavoidable to feel exactly the same way when watching him. One of the things that is also shocking is how well Firth’s interpretation of Bernie feels positively genuine. His troubled nature is completely sympathetic without the slightest hint of irony. He is a good man who is trying his best to do the right thing in this world. A prime example of that occurs when the Prince, realizing he will soon be king, breaks down at his desk and confesses that he is not a leader, but a simple naval officer. His wife, the future Queen Mother played by the exquisite Helena Bonham Carter, calmly holds her husband and gives him strength. Bernie’s only answer is the mischievous actor and self-proclaimed speech therapist, Lionel Logue. He is the complete opposite of the introverted monarch; displaying a superb flare for theatrics as dramatized by Oscar-nominated Geoffrey Rush. As seen in his audition as Richard III, Rush’s Lionel is a manipulator and devious man. Only difference is that Richard’s intentions were destructive and Logue’s objective is healthy for the king.

In many ways, the film becomes a series of amusing acting/Theatre 101 exercises: the actor is the teacher and the future king is the student. On the wings of this stage is Bernie’s brother, Edward (King Edward VIII), played by adventurous Guy Pearce who is torn between the love of his life and his responsibility to England. He represents everything that Bernie is not: a confident, playboyish daredevil who is more concerned with living his life than being what his father wants to see on the throne. This makes life more intense for all the players who are uncertain of their future. Every person on earth has difficulty predicting what may come in life, and this is a far more difficult task for anyone struggling to predict their own speech patterns. It is a lesson in how to transcend your own limitations in order to grow as a person and as an inspired figure.