Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Reel Inspiration review: “The King's Speech - Better Late than Never or Jana Eats Crow...n"
“The King's Speech” begins with the future King of England, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, stammering into the microphone at his first public address. In the next sequence he is further humiliated by a speech therapist who requires the Duke to hold marbles in his mouth while attempting to enunciate. Fast forward. England is now on the verge of the second World War and the newly appointed King George VI must deliver the most important speech of his life.
I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to review this inspiring film. I actually saw it on opening weekend, but had some misgivings that my prevented my complete involvement in what seemed to be an enchanting film. Here's the rub. My head was clouded by stories of how my uncle had overcame his own debilitating stammer - so something about the therapy sessions in the film didn't ring true for me. I brought my uncle with me for my second viewing. He confirmed my doubts about the effectiveness of the therapy. He explained that the cure for his stammering was to become less self-conscious of his speech, and that the speech exercises shown in the film would only succeed in making a stammerer more self-conscious. (We still enjoyed the film - making allowances that this may have been the only therapy available at the time.) At my third viewing, I finally got it. The technical exercises were never intended to correct the stammer. The King, who had previously deemed the technical exercises ridiculous, actually requested them because that was more comfortable than working through his feelings in therapy. The therapist, knowing that the useless exercises would give the determined King something concrete to work on, scheduled daily exercises to create an atmosphere of comfort and confidence that would eventually lead the King to trusting his therapist and himself. Trust was the important factor in uncovering the source of the stammer and facing it.
After my new realization set in, it all made sense. The whole story is built on trust. At their first meeting the Duke tests the therapist. The therapist's first task is to overcome the Duke's resistance by demonstrating his expertise. He insists from the onset that they forgo formal titles such as, “Your Majesty” or “Doctor” because trust can only be built on a foundation of equality. But the Duke refuses, holding steadfast to the trappings of his position as a barrier from dealing with his fears and insecurities. But his frustration with his speech and his deep commitment to his family responsibilities keeps bringing him back. Finally, there is a break-though. The tragedy of his father's death brings up painful memories and the Duke finally opens up about his past. But an even greater fear causes him to retreat again - the possibility that he may become king. He bellows at the top of his lungs that a King's only duty is to speak for the people and he can't bloody speak! When he discovers that his therapist is not officially a doctor, the King hides behind a shield of mistrust accusing his therapist of being a fraud. But, his therapist is right. In order to find his voice, his Majesty must overcome his feeling of unworthiness and trust that he is the leader the country needs. This story is about more than making, “The King's Speech.” It is about the making of a King.
I highly recommend the very worthy Best Picture winner, “The King's Speech,”(better late then never) for it's clever, insightful script by David Seidler, Colin's Firth's dynamic, Oscar winning performance and Geoffrey Rush's hilarious take on the eccentric therapist. (I guess Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture is confirmation enough for director Tom Hooper.)
More evidence of how wrong I was about the speech therapy at: