King speaks for all to hear

When I was just a little guy, I suffered from a speech impediment. Nothing close to what Colin Firth’s George VI goes through in The King’s Speech; mine was not a stammer, rather a lisp. 

  • Jan. 27, 2011 1:00 p.m.
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush give Oscar nominated performances in The King’s Speech as King George VI and his speech therapist Lionel Logue.

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush give Oscar nominated performances in The King’s Speech as King George VI and his speech therapist Lionel Logue.

When I was just a little guy, I suffered from a speech impediment. Nothing close to what Colin Firth’s George VI goes through in The King’s Speech; mine was not a stammer, rather a lisp. 

And while I didn’t have to worry about addressing the British Empire, only talking to other children and occasionally standing up and reading in my otherwise cozy elementary classroom, I can still recall the fear, and yes, even the shame, in simply speaking up. 

Now, I’ll never be a king (geez, I’ll probably never be mortgage free), but I am in radio. I’ve never really thought much about it, but, four decades later, I talk to people every day. Not on a huge scale, mind you. But a win’s a win. 

And the fact that the primary focus of The King’s Speech is not on the pageantry of the throne, but on a very real problem: how a man overcomes his fear, well, shoot, that I can relate to. That I can embrace.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that director Tom Hooper (Longford) is blessed with ridiculously talented actors who know how to execute The King’s Speech to perfection. 

It’s a gorgeous period movie, but more importantly, it’s a masterful story; one that realizes its importance on an historical scale, but never forgets the message of friendship, courage, or the glorious spirit it rides on.

As Prince Albert, the Duke of York, we realize Firth’s problem within the first few frames, during an uncomfortable crisis in front of the microphone at Wembley Stadium. 

And the sympathy he collects from the audience doesn’t come from over-the-top manipulation, rather, much of it is gathered from the empathetic face of his wife, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter). Speechless, her heart breaks for her helpless spouse. Her sad eyes say more than words ever could.

Enter slightly quirky Australian speech therapist –– and failed thespian –– Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). His casual attitude towards royalty is something Albert is simply not used to. During their first session together, Lionel suggests they converse on a first-name basis, insisting on calling the good prince by the family nickname “Bertie.” 

Lionel’s plan, which justifiably enrages the royal, is quite clear. If he’s to become his therapist, he must first become his friend.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks to older brother Guy Pearce’s sashaying about with an American socialite, Firth becomes next in line for the crown and, with Hitler on a tear, it’s inevitable that he’ll soon have to speak to the world and declare war. 

I won’t give away every little detail as to the build-up of that moment, or the scene itself. Let’s just say, it has to be considered one of the year’s sweet spots in all of cinema.

The feature is currently playing at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.