A Women’s Movie About Men?

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

20 comments… add one
  • I haven’t seen it yet. It has only just hit the theatres Down Under, but now I really must. I’ll put it on my To Do list.

  • Thanks for the link love, Ruth. I’ll bring this up with my podcast buddies tomorrow and see what they have to say about ‘The King’s Speech’ (they’re both guys, by the way, and comic-book movie fans).

    I’m like you and had to be extracted from my seat after the end credits rolled. In fact, I’ll probably see ‘The King’s Speech’ again before the Oscars on Feb. 27.

    It’s interesting… I didn’t think much about whether males or females liked the movie more, but after you mentioned it, I realized that yes, here in northern Michigan, I’ve heard more good reviews from women. The guys go because it’s supposed to be a good movie and because their spouses want them to go. They like the movie, but don’t rave about it.

    I do wonder if it has something to do with the fact that guys don’t like seeing other guys being vulnerable on screen. Or maybe it’s the fact that if it wasn’t for George’s wife, he never would have overcome his speech impediment. At least, that’s how they portrayed it in the film. Who knows how it went down in real life?

    Anyway, all food for thought.

  • It was the first movie I had seen in ages where the audience applauded at the end. And as far as I could tell, the men were applauding also. My movie-maven son saw it and loved it. I’m checking with my brother who lectures on movies, but he prefers things that are 50 years old……

  • I haven’t seen the movie. I’m waiting for DVD. I have to admit I was not feeling enthusiastic about it until I read this! I’ve seen so many of those dry English movies where everyone talks with their mouths full of marbles and are so very serious. I almost couldn’t beat the thought of it. But you make it sound wonderful. Although my husband will probably not like it as much I’m guessing!

  • I’m SO excited to see this. I’m waiting for the movie to come to our funky, art deco, old fashioned, $6 theater (the other option is an hour-long drive), but definitely think I’ll take my whole family – 3 males.

  • I’ve seen the trailers for this movie and thought it looked interesting. Now I’ll definitely make an effort to see it. Like Jane, I think men don’t like being portrayed as vulnerable. Glad to hear that the audience applauded the movie when Vera saw it in Tucson. Including the men.

  • I love the movie too, much more than I expected. My DH really liked it a lot as well. His mom picked it as a celebration outing, and I think he was worried it would be some of those period pieces with lots of costumes. The part he mentions most if/when we talk about it … is how real, and stressful, and suspenseful those horrible moments of stammering are.

  • My husband and I both loved it. It particularly struck a chord with me because I majored in Speech Therapy and was a therapist in public schools for 3 years, until small minded “coach principals” drove me out.

  • I liked this piece, as always your writing is great. As for the Movie, My wife and I saw it in Hollywood as part of the AFI Film Festival and were lucky to see Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush afterwards. Is Geoffrey Rush the finest Actor in Movies today? I think so.
    It meant a great deal more to me than I had at first realised. I was born in the UK and King George died when I was just 7. He was my King you see. Not the present incumbent family but George was MY King. Love the Movie! – sorry to disillusion you but I am Male and cannot stop talking about it!

  • I haven’t seen this one yet, but now that you mention it, yeah it’s been women who’ve recommended it to me. There was a blurb in the paper today from the WSJ’s movie reviewer who said that Rupert Murdoch mentioned that his father had worked with Logue too (to fix a speech impediment).

  • My gosh; you are so right on about the reason this is such a great film.
    Wonderfully penned, Ruth.

  • I so enjoyed the movie, for all the same reasons. To see a man of power face so vulnerable; to see a friendship between two men as emotionally deep and complicated as this one was: this is one movie to cheer about.

  • I keep hearing great things about “The King’s Speech” (from other women, of course), and now after reading your post, Ruth, I’m dying to go…. It doesn’t hurt that Colin Firth is playing the lead either.

  • My husband and I saw it on a date afternoon for our anniversary. We both loved loved loved it. Loved it.

  • Susan Link

    I heard this movie was good and I can’t wait to see it. Thanks, Ruth and Jane, for the recommendation.

  • What a really wonderful film in every way – so full of depth and such excellent acting. I saw it in Edinburgh on Sunday last and then that night, it won 7 BAFTA Awards in London!!!
    Girls – we all can’t be wrong!! The men need to see it too!!

  • I agree with both you and Jane on this score. Loved this movie — as did all my galpals — for how uplifting it was and for the power of friendship, courage in the face of adversity, and standing by your man.

    The cynical journalist in me wondered: Is it all true?

  • Sarah – yes, worth every dollar! Excellent and so full of depth and emotion!
    The fellow whose idea it was got an award as he had had a bad stutter as a child – so – well done him!! He was interviewed and spoke well!

  • I went reluctanly with my wife to see the “King’s Speech”, thinking all along that what a drab movie I was going to see…. Well, needless to say, I’m still in awe of both actor’s performance. It was excellent and well documented, showing the vulnerabilities of one man to another, especially of the King’s stammering and working with his coach.

    It was some what painful for me, as I also have a slight speech impediment as of late. None the less, this movie will get the top awards as well as Best Actor and Supporting for their stellar work on this film. Thanks Ruth for placing this blog out here.

  • As Frank says – maybe men don’t want to show and interest in a “weakness” they may have but we women share and get on with it!! Keep fighting guys — men and women!! If we don’t — who else will do this for us so come on men too we all need to fight and forget weaknesses as others may see but they may not be weaknesses at all and you will all have strengths in other areas!!!
    A child at school may be dreadful at Maths/Science etc but may be a wonderful artist/sculptor and may be a budding Van Gogh or Monet!!! Don’t give in at all — keep your strengths in whatever fields!!
    Marie (Scotland – ex teacher too!)

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