There are many times when the film picked for best picture at the Oscars tend to be what many would consider the wrong film. Too often these days the award is given to a prestige picture, a film that no one saw and chances are that they won’t even though it won the award. Popular pictures seem to be ignored for more artistic films. This past year saw a marriage of the two, a film that not only entertained and did decent at the box office but that told a solid tale without resorting to simplistic feats. That film arrives on DVD this week, THE KING’S SPEECH.
Opening in 1925, the Duke of York, Albert Frederick Arthur George, was the younger of two brothers to King George V. Played here with a combination of weakness and strength by Colin Firth (who won the Oscar for best actor); Albert is a beaten man when it comes to all things royal. He knows his brother is heir to the crown and is fine with that. But he’s had a problem since childhood that affects him on a daily basis. He is quite tongue tied with a stammer that impedes him from making any speeches whatsoever.
Consulting doctor after doctor with the help of his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) he all but gives up hope. Then she hears of a doctor of a different sort, one who has a record of being able to help each patient sent his way.
Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is unconventional at best. An Australian now in London, he takes on case after case while hoping to land a career in the theatre. With the arrival of Elizabeth and sworn to secrecy, he sets the ground rules. It is he who will decided if he takes the case or not and when in his locale both men become equals. To make his point, he takes to calling Albert “Bertie”, a nickname only members of the royal family have used in the past. While Albert isn’t aware, Lionel understands it’s not the symptoms that just need treated but the cause as well. And until Albert comes to grips with this, the cure will only be temporary.
The two men work on a daily basis as Lionel helps Albert overcome his fears to a certain extent. He does improve but near as much as he would like. Still unable to make a public speech, setbacks occur more often when he’s in the presence of his father or his more popular brother, Edward (Guy Pearce).
At present Edward isn’t quite so popular with his father. Haven taken up with a married woman named Mrs. Wallis Simpson doesn’t sit well with either his father or the countries politicians. Should he take on the mantel of King he would also be the head of the Church of England, a church that doesn’t believe in divorce or remarrying. And King he does become when his father passes away.
Forced to choose between his love of Mrs. Simpson and his duties to his country, Edward rescinds the crown and Bertie is now next in line to become King. With the help of Logue, he makes it through the ceremony and is now King George VI. But fires are burning across Europe. Hitler is on the move and soon makes his play in Poland. And now Bertie must gather together his strength and inspire a nation with a speech. Has all the work paid off or not?
Based on the true history of these two men, the film slowly develops not just the story but shows the development of the two men as well. One born into high society and the other the son of a drunk, they have little in common and yet learn more from one another than would be expected. And through their learning they become possibly the best friend that either of them has ever had.
Not only did the film win for best picture it also garnered Oscars for best screenplay and best director. It deserved them both. Not only that, Rush should have won for best supporting actor as his part is as important to the story as Firth’s character was. Did the film deserve the awards it was given? Most definitely. This is a story that inspires just with the tale alone. There are no outward heroics with guns blazing. Instead we are inspired by the courage of one man to face his fears, to overcome his disability and to become the voice of his nation.
The true test to me of a good film is if I would consider watching it again. So many films are fun once but not a second or even third time. This is a film that will remain on my shelf and on occasion come down to be watched again. It truly is that good. It’s not just a film that qualifies for a good rental, its worth owning.