King's Speech, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for language. (edited version); Originally Rated R for some language.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: B+,A/D,A,A+=A
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Budget: $15 million
Box Office: $401 million (138 U.S., 263 Intl.)

Written by: David Seidler (The King and I, Quest for Camelot, Tucker, and a lot of TV)
Directed by: Tom Hooper (John Adams TV miniseries)
Starring: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush
With: Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, and Timothy Spall

Second in line to succeed his tyrannical father, Prince Albert suffers from a debilitating stutter until he encounters a rare and effective speech therapist who helps him in every area of his deliberately isolated life.

Entertainment Value: B+
When a film is nominated for 12 Academy Awards and wins 4, only giving it a B+ for entertainment value needs an explanation. In this case, though I loved the movie, I have to admit I was a bit bored by it at times. Just bored enough that I couldn’t give it an A. Also, since music blaring in his ears made him speak so flawlessly, I was annoyed the movie never made anything more of the possible value of this particular therapy. Nevertheless, these are only the most minor of failings, and the movie certainly deserved at least the Best Picture nomination (I haven’t yet seen enough of the other contenders to affirm the victory) and Colin Firth’s performance as the chronically stuttering Prince Albert is stunningly good.

Superficial Content: A/D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence A, Language D
I must be honest. I find this particular category frustrating. First, the movie is almost squeaky clean for 117 minutes. There is smoking and implied sexuality way, way, way off screen. There is no violence at all. So why is it R (or PG-13 on some versions)? Because part of the story involves the Prince swearing since it’s one of the few times he doesn’t stutter. This swearing is heavy and obvious but supremely brief the few times it shows up. If you can’t endure kids hearing pretty much all swears, then they shouldn’t watch this. But that’s all there is. Also, since I suspect (and hope) this was essential to the real story , it’s probably not right to ask them to remove it from this movie version, I think.

Significant Content: A
This is a completely different sort of heroic teacher movie because it’s not set in a school. But in a very obvious way, it shows how a teacher who knows what he’s doing can have impact on not just a person, but even the course of history perhaps. The pressure to be normal and to appear normal can drive people (and parents) to do horribly cruel things to themselves (or their children). People in power far more deeply than others realize need people who will not defer to them and will dignify them by treating them as peers instead. And a loving wife certainly does not hurt your chances of becoming the man you should be.

Artistic/Thought Value: A+
This is an artistic masterpiece, in large part because it chooses ever-so-carefully to reveal its themes and implications to us for us to grasp rather than feeding them to us in any obvious way. The main lessons and insights this movie contains are screaming through the narrative without ever being even whispered out loud. That’s great art alone. Rush and Firth are fantastic, and Michael Gambon’s King George V is a terrifying portrait of disturbed parenting, and it compares poignantly with the egalitarianism of Rush’s own.

Discussion Questions:
~What motivated Albert’s father to do all the things he did to him? What effect did this have on Albert? What is Albert most terrified of? What is neglect? When is “try harder” actually counterproductive advice?
~This movie is sometimes slow and even silent. Why is this so important to what it is trying to accomplish?
~How does this movie influence your view of royalty or the English royals?
~What is the source of Albert’s stutter? Why is revealing some of his history so vital to improving his speech? What distinction is being drawn here between superficial tactics to fix a problem and substantial psychological or character healing to fix the source of that problem?
~How do you react to people who stammer badly? Does it irritate you, arouse pity in you, or something else? What do you think it would be like to feel thwarted by your own body in trying to communicate with others? What other diseases have a similar sort of frustrating effect on people?
~Why is Albert’s ability to utter only profanity clearly so symbolic?
~Does Logue pity Albert? Do you? What’s the difference between pity and love?
~Why is it so important to be loved for who you are including your flaws?
~Why is equality and refusing to defer to his royalty such an important element of the therapy? Which is more dignifying: being treated as a superior or being treated as an equal?
~Compare the parenting of George V and Logue. What aspects of either influence how you think about your own parenting?
~Why does Albert choose to become King George VI? What does this say about him in regard to his father?
~Are you the sort of person who evaluates other people by the way they speak, whether pronunciation, grammar, or anything else? Does this movie affect the way you think of this habit of judgment?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The opening speech.
~Albert describing his father’s treatment of his various disorders.
~Albert watching film of Hitler speaking so forcefully. This scene alone is easily my favorite of the film for the contrast and implications it draws without ever stating.
~Logue defending himself. Why is there such an issue over credentials in spite of such obvious success? What deeper issues about royalty and commoners is this aspect of the story driving at?
~The final speech. What consequences hung on the success of this particular speech? What sort of impact did Logue wind up having on history?

Overall Grade: A
This is about as good as films can be. It’s a fantastic character study and biography, with rich psychological undertones. Despite some historical adjustments, it’s very, very good.

No comments: