By now, you’ve all heard about or seen the movie “The King’s Speech.” It’s the mostly true story of the English King George VI, who was next in line for the throne when his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.
(That couple, of course, went on to become the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, one of the more disgusting and indolent pairs in history, if I do say so myself — and did in this particular
broadside of a post.)
But, anyway, that’s once again beside the point, since the point is how much I loved “The King’s Speech.” In the movie, George VI (Colin Firth!) struggles with his stammer. Before he became king, his stammer was a personal blight. Ascending to the throne on the eve of the Second World War, though, he faces being unable to communicate with his country and the world at a pivotal time in history when radio has become a vital means for leadership.
Enter Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian speech therapist who’s wonderfully played by Geoffrey Rush. Logue and the new king enter into an awkward, halting, sometimes almost excruciatingly painful road to friendship and mastery over the stammer. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it — even if I did spend part of my time dithering about which of the two — Rush or Firth — was the more incredible and touching actor.
At the end of the movie, I almost had to be surgically extracted from my seat, where I would have been happy to stay for an encore. “I loved that movie,” I said to my husband, as we walked up the aisle. “Just loved it. It was wonderful.”
“Yeah,” he said mildly. “I liked it, too.”
I didn’t really pay much attention to his pallid replies, since I was bubbling over with enthusiasm about how the movie had everything: good writing, great acting, emotion, enormous historical stakes just offstage. (God, how I love World War II, with its outsize heroes and villains, its simpler demarcations of good and evil, its safely decided outcome. On days when today’s world is simply too convoluted and agonizing and precarious, I am tempted to lock myself into a small room and watch “Casablanca” and “The King’s Speech” over and over. Is there a problem with this?)
After a while, though, I began to notice I was doing most of the talking and fervent enthusing, while my husband was quieter. But things like that happen, you know. Sometimes, one spouse has more to say.
I didn’t think about it more till I went on my weekly walk with my friend, Betsy. Halfway around the lake, we began talking about how much we loved “The King’s Speech” — World War II! The evil Duke and Duchess of Windsor! the poignance! the lovely friendship! Pretty soon, we were screaming at each other with enthusiasm.
In fact, the more women I talked to about the movie, the more I realized they were like me: We had all loved it. More than anything, I think, it was the film’s lovely depiction of male friendship that had stirred us so much. How often do you see a movie showing a men’s friendship that’s emotional and moving and doesn’t involve pathetic, sexist jokes and hangovers and belching? Almost never, that’s when.
I asked my friend Jane Boursaw, whose popular entertainment blog, Reel Life With Jane, is a great source for all things pop culture. Jane said she thought “The King’s Speech” appealed to women “not only because it’s a great production with fine actors, but it also shows a man’s vulnerability, which we don’t often get to see in a world where tough-guy action flicks rule the big screen.”
Then, Jane started getting carried away, talking about how “The King’s Speech” might win an Oscar for Best Picture, thereby starting a new trend for deep, emotional, meaningful movies about men. But then she reminded herself that there were no fewer than 27 comic book movies coming out in the U.S. this year and maybe, on the whole, she should stop kidding herself and move to France, instead.
I think I need to talk to Jane about that. I’m hopeful she’s right, that “The King’s Speech” will sweep the Oscars and a new film era will be upon us.
In the meantime, I’ll remind her, look what happened to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after they moved to France: Nothing good, rien du tout.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)
See a related post about my continuing problem of being a little too obsessed with a movie