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MOVIE REVIEW: The King’s Speech

Colin Firth explores the perils of public speaking

The King's Speech

The King's Speech

  • The King's Speech
  • Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue in "The King's Speech."
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So, King George V dies. King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) is going to marry a twice-divorced woman from Baltimore. That won’t go over well. So the shy, stammering brother (Colin Firth) gets to step into the throne.

Firth’s going to get nominated for an Oscar, which is fine. If he wins, I’ll be ticked off. He should’ve gotten it for the wonderful performance in A Single Man last year, but this performance -- as good as it is -- hardly deserves the top prize.

England is on the brink of war, and it’s important that King Edward VIII give a speech. You see, this is at a time when broadcasts and newsreels are really starting to be used a lot. His dad may have screamed at him to “just spit it out,” but…his dad never had to talk into a big, round microphone, with intimidating flashing red lights. Kings used to be “seen, not heard.”

I’ve done TV and radio, and for those that haven’t spoken on the air, let me tell you something about your first time.

I was producing a morning show, and would occasionally do recorded segments. One time I did a live report from SeaWorld, when PETA wasprotesting. Those went fine and I was only slightly nervous.

My first air shift was filling in for a DJ that called in sick on a Friday night. I was starting at 11 p.m. My legs were shaking, even though I kept telling myself there’d probably only be a handful of people listening; folks stocking shelves at Ralphs or deep frying donuts.

The Rolling Stones song was coming to an end. I slipped the big headphones on, potted up the microphone, and I got the Albert Brooks flop-sweat.

I already had the back-sell ready. I was going to say “That’s Mick and Keef, the Rolling Stones, from Exile on Main Street. Before that we heard George Thorogood, who will be at SDSU's Open Ampitheatre next month. Coming up, we got The Beatles, Styx, and a request from Santee for some Santana…(into commercials).

Easy enough, right? I said it over and over in my head, during the entire previous two songs.

Yet when the microphone was turned on, nothing came out of my mouth the first few seconds. I froze. I started to speak, and my throat felt dry. I think it sounded like “Stones. Street. And George Thorogood. He’s coming here. Good. Uh…Styx, is…uh…next (into commercials).

Coming out of commercials wasn’t much better.

I took the headphones off, set them on the control board, wondering if my program director had heard, and how soon I’d be fired.

As the songs were playing, I went into another studio and recorded my next break. Even though I was in the studio live, for the next few hours, I just played myself recorded. This way, while I was recording myself, I could re-do it if there was a mistake. When I realized I was getting this all in one take – and I’d look stupid if any other DJs happened to show up – (sometimes they brought women in there late at night to party), I just turned the microphone on live and did fine.

I’m guessing many broadcasters have similar stories, but the King has a different scenario. He’s speaking to everyone. He knows he stammers, which probably makes it worse.

Richard Nixon sweating on TV during the first televised debates cost him an election with John Kennedy. It happens.

And, all the kind words his wife (Helena Bonham Carter, in a nice, understated performance) and his speech therapist (the always great Geoffrey Rush), don’t make it easier.

Who would’ve thought you’d be on the edge of your seat watching a speech? This isn’t Orson Welles reading War of the Worlds. It’s not someone doing play-by-play for Rocky.

I was pleasantly surprised that Firth didn’t play this King with a horrible stutter that was distracting or unrealistic. I liked the fact that Rush wasn’t some crazy, eccentric character. He may have done things in an unorthodox manner, but you knew right away his heart was in the right place and that there was a method to his madness.

There are a handful of scenes that I absolutely loved in this. One has them walking through a park, discussing his speech impediment and the anger that arises.

Another has the King cursing during a practice session.

A lot of good stuff in this period piece, but it hardly deserves the throne that critics are thrusting upon it.

And period pieces aren’t for everyone.

A few reviewers have commented on how ridiculous it is this movie was rated R, simply for the curse words. There was no nudity, no violence, no sexual situations – just a few curse words. And don’t PG and PG13 movies have bad language?

I’m guessing teenagers would be bored to tears by this, but still. They should have the opportunity to see it if they wanted to.

I’m giving it a B-.