During his coronation rehearsal Colin Firth’s King George VI screams, “I have a voice!” His speech coach Lionel Logue played by Geoffrey Rush quietly responds, “Yes, you do.” “King’s Speech” is the best movie of the year. “King’s Speech” is absolutely inspiring and touching. Firth and Rush have an amazing and moving partnership. Based on the true story of King George VI of England before World War II, when he became king after his brother King Edward was forced to abdicate the throne when he chooses to marry twice divorced American Wallis Simpson—forbade by the Church of England. King George suffers debilitating stammering speech. Paradoxically, Screenwriter Danny Cohen’s words are inspired eloquence. Tom Hooper’s direction is powerful and resonates with a tangible authenticity.
“King’s Speech” is about overcoming the fear of and reclaiming one’s greatness. In a heartbreaking scene in the King’s den, George (Firth) weeps to his very soul, “I’m not a king! I’m not a king!” If you replace the word “king” with “great”, I think you get the profound transformation at play. Everyone has a fear of sucking or looking bad. Perhaps, the most profound fear for everyone is actually being great. Lionel’s wife Myrtle (understanding Jennifer Ehle) inquires about his melancholy. He says it is about his client— secretly George. “He can be great.” But George doesn’t know that. Lionel has a telling conversation with Berty (his personal address for George); he asks him, “What are you so fearful of?”
Berty is afraid of becoming King—he is afraid of being great. As “King’s Speech” opens we painfully witness Berty (Firth) stammer through a public speaking engagement. He is the second son of King George V (gently intolerant Michael Gambon), so not directly in line to the Throne. Firth embodies Berty’s decency and enlightened self awareness. Following the embarrassing Christmas radio speech, Berty and his devoted wife Elizabeth (strong and compassionate Helena Bonham Carter) approach heretic speech coach Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to correct this tragic flaw.
Lionel is discounted on two levels: he is Australian, and is a failed stage actor without legitimate credentials. Berty assumes that Lionel is a Doctor. During the initial consult, Lionel discerns that Berty’s stammering is nothing mechanical. At cause are his relationships with his Father King George V (Gambon) and future king brother Edward (elusive and charming Guy Pearce). Demonstrating his family loyalty to George V, his overbearing father never acknowledges him. Pearce brilliantly captures Edward as well intentioned, but completely irresponsible playboy. Although he loves his brother Berty, Edward mocks his solid and brave kid brother.
England is on the verge of War with Germany, and King George V is deathly ailing. Aside from Elizabeth, Lionel truly sees Berty, the man is; the man can be. Rush confides to Berty (Firth), “You are the most courageous man I know…” Berty never had any friends, much less Commoners. “King’s Speech” indelibly tells the touching story of a lifelong friendship and partnership. Colin Firth is compellingly vulnerable, and powerful. He will win an Oscar for Best Actor. Geoffrey Rush is electrifying in his compassion and unwavering belief in his friend. Their screen partnership is amazing. In the astounding story arc, Rush tells Firth to deliver the speech to him, as he would talk to his friend. That touched me profoundly.
I have worked on my public speaking, not training nearly as hard as Berty, although forcing me to alter myself. Once while struggling through a practice speech with my dear friend and mentor John, he told me, “Talk to me as your friend.” I got it. The cinematography, costume design, and music are impeccable in “King’s Speech”. I think the true power of “King’s Speech” is the story of profound love and lifelong friendship. True heroes see the greatness in others, and fulfill on that promise. “King’s Speech” is the best movie of the year that fulfills on this promise for everyone.