Friday, March 18, 2011

The King's Speech

When everyone around talks about it, at some point you feel like you have to go…. I was not that excited when I arrived, it was more like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. How wrong was I! Thankfully I had good company and, after insisting, so much I could hardly change my mind. So I ended up going to one of the few cinemas still showing The King’s Speech (2010), which deserves every single Oscar it got. It retraces the story of King George VI and how he got over his stammer, helped by speech therapist Lionel Logue.

So as the film is based on historical facts, no suspense here, we sort of already know what is happening. This is life in the Royal family so should not be fun. But the British accent (that I love) combined with the British humour (that I love even more!) make the film extremely funny, entertaining, and enjoyable to watch. Each character brings some kind of humour at some point: David, the Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), Georges VI (Colin Firth, unforgettable Mark Darcy on both Pride & Prejudice TV series and Bridget Jones' Diary), and secondary characters too – the award goes to Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) though – he is irreverent and hilarious.

Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.

King George VI: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.

Lionel Logue: They're idiots.

King George VI: They've all been knighted.

Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.


Lionel Logue: You still stammered on the 'W'.

King George VI: Well I had to throw in a few so they knew it was me.


David / Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) is perfect as the nonchalant king obsessed with partying and with his love life but having no interest in ruling.


King Edward VIII: Sorry, I've been terribly busy.

King George VI: Doing what?

King Edward VIII: Kinging.

I did not like the actor so much , he is like a mini Brad Pitt, and was made to look pretty and fluffy to emphasize his absence of interest for ruling. Everyone has heard of Wallis Simpson  at least once – that said I had not realized how unpopular she was.That said, I have never been very good at history.

One thing that bothered ma little was the actor impersonating Churchill: Timothy Spall - nothing to criticize about his acting, that’s not the issue, but to me he is and always will be Wormtail / Peter Pettrigrew in the Harry Potter movies  – so that kind of put me off.

The three main protagonists are amazing: Colin Firth more than deserves his Oscar, he is amazing and so credible as a stutterer and as a man who finds himself with responsibilities he did not want, as a man who grew up without affection ; Helena Bonham Carter, even though I am not a fan, is equally as good, and strangely enough it did not bother me that she also plays in the Harry Potter movies (role of Bellatrix Lestrange). Looking through her bio, I found she is the great-granddaughter of Herbert Henry Asquith, British Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916.

But I have a particular liking for Geoffrey Rush, who is just…. right. He is a perfect contrast to the King: he is a loving father, he is comfortable speaking, he is not bound by his education, he has nothing to prove, he is confident and…. he is hilarious. I am not entirely sure the real Lionel Logue could have been as “impolite” in real life! But that touch of irreverence (the scene at Westminster Abbey is particularly hilarious) prevented the movie from being dull.

One thing I am grateful for is to have grown up where I did. Do not get me wrong, I love England, but I could not help feeling sad for the King, the children, and generally the Royal Family – at some point George VI / Bertie talks about his childhood and being presented to his parents for the “daily viewing” ; later on his own daughters, shortly after he has been crowned, do not kiss and hug him anymore, but curtsey and call him “your majesty”. Every single member of the family is burdened by responsibilities, education, and does not know about affection of free will (“I wanted to build models when I was a child. But my father was a stamp collector, and so we were expected to be”). His father George V is touch on him, and tries to correct his stutter by pressuring him rather than by understanding and helping him. By the way, we were wondering: did George V do something fantastic to have an avenue named after him in Paris??? In sharp contrast, the scenes with Lionel’s family show a place where it must be good to grow up, where children are loved, and encouraged to pursue their interests. Yes, it is good to be ordinary.

No suspense, this ends well. It is not the end that matters in this movie, but the way to get there. The chemistry between the King and Lionel is palpable and, even though we know the end, we are on tenderhooks on how this is going to go.  Sometimes it is good to force yourself a little. I definitely recommend it.


  1. In english, the Kink says ''you'' when he talks to his wife or friends. In french (VOSTF), it was translated in ''vous''. How can we make sure it was not ''tu'' (for instance, when the King talks to his children)?

  2. We can't.... but, as we are talking about a royal family, we, and the translators, can reasonably assume it is "vous". Just a theory! But it seems consistent with literature, even French.