The King’s Speech

2 February 2017

Movie Critique for The King’s Speech I watched The King’s Speech for my movie critique at home. This film tells the story of Prince Albert, the Duke of York, and how he overcame a life-long speech impediment with the help of Lionel Logue, a speech therapist from Australia. The movie begins with Prince Albert (Colin Firth) attempting to deliver a speech written by his father at the closing ceremony of the Empire Exhibition. We find out that the king has already spoken, as well as Prince Albert’s older brother, the Prince of Wales, and now the Duke of York must speak. As he begins the speech, it becomes clear that he has a debilitating stutter.

The scene following shows what I assume is one of many failed treatments by a specialist to cure him of his speech problem. The Duke becomes frustrated during the treatment and asks his wife, Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter), to promise that he won’t have to see any more doctors. This leads the Duchess of York to secretly visit an unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Mr. Logue explains to the Duchess that although he is willing to help the Duke, he will only assist on his terms and they must come to him and follow his rules. The Duchess agrees, and sets an appointment.

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Prince Albert meets with Mr. Logue, but has little hope that the therapist can help, and after becoming upset at Logue’s overfamiliarity and unconventional methods, he storms out. The movie then takes us to a scene involving Prince Albert and his father and we’re told why it is so important for Prince Albert to be able to speak properly. His older brother Edward (Guy Pearce) has begun neglecting his royal duties in order to pursue a twice divorced woman, and Prince Albert must pick up the slack. One source of his speech problem is revealed as his father berates him to speak clearly, and Prince Albert is plainly upset by this.

After listening to a recording of himself from his initial visit with Logue that shows he has the ability to speak well when he cannot hear himself, Prince Albert returns to Logue for treatment. There is a montage of Prince Albert and Lionel Logue going through vocal training and we see Prince Albert slowly starting to improve and gain confidence. King George V (Michael Gambon) dies shortly after Prince Albert has commenced treatment, and Albert’s brother is placed on the throne as King Edward VIII. The new king is intent on continuing his relationship with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), against the wishes of the government.

When forced to choose between Mrs. Simpson and retaining his position on the throne, King Edward chooses to abdicate, which elevates Prince Albert to the position of king. The new king realizes he needs the assistance of Lionel Logue now more than ever. In September of 1939, England declares that they are entering war with Nazi Germany, and King George VI (formerly Prince Albert) must address the people of Britain and the Empire. To help himself get through the speech, King George acts as if he’s delivering the speech to Lionel and not the millions of people hearing the speech via radio.

The speech is viewed as a great success. We are told that Lionel Logue continued to support King George during his speeches throughout World War II. (The King’s Speech) One of the principals of verbal communication I observed in this movie is Politeness and Gender (DeVito 106). Although the book gives examples of women being more likely to be polite and for men to be indirect, in the movie, the roles are reversed and the Duchess of York is cold and unwelcoming toward Wallis Simpson even though both are women. When Price Albert greets Mrs. Simpson, he is much more polite toward her than his wife.

An example of Selfish Deception (DeVito 109) is shown when King George V is discussing his son Edward’s relationship with Wallis Simpson. He tells Prince Albert that he doesn’t believe Edward’s claims that he has not had relations with Mrs. Simpson. It is clear that Edward told his father this lie in an act of selfish deception in order to protect himself. Prince Albert (later King George VI) is a good example of Nonassertive Messages (DeVito 111-112). Throughout most of the movie, Prince Albert is reluctant to speak up for himself and demand better treatment from his father and older brother.

Although he’s a prince, he takes orders from almost everyone around him. Even his children are able to make him tell a bedtime story when he’d rather not. His self-esteem was definitely low. Prince Edward displays Disconfirmation (DeVito 114) when he is dealing with his brother Prince Albert. He does not care when his brother tries to get him to come to dinner and brushes him off. When he is abdicating the throne, he doesn’t seem to take into account at all how this will affect his brother. When Albert is attempting to explain why taking care of his duties as king is important, Edward barely listens to him.

During the side story of Lionel Logue’s theatre aspirations, Ageism (DeVito 118) is illustrated when he auditions for a part in a Shakespearian play, and is first ignored by the director and then told that he is too old for the part. There was a feeling of general disrespect as well as talking down to Mr. Logue. I have a feeling that if Prince Albert had not had such a suppressive childhood and had more confirmation instead of disconfirmation while growing up, he would not have developed such a severe speech problem.

Had his family member’s practiced confirmation, they would have noticed his nanny’s abuse sooner than three years into the occurrences. They would have accepted the fact that he was left handed and not punished him for being different. Also, as he grew into adulthood, if he had somehow gained the confidence earlier on to communicate assertively, he would have been able to tell people how their ill treatment affected him. He would have been able to stand up to his older brother and tell him that it was not alright to just leave the position as king and dump it on his brother.

The King’s Speech contains many different examples of verbal communication used both properly and improperly. It displays varying levels of politeness between characters, how confidence affects how certain characters communicate, and how it is possible to learn how to communicate more effectively.

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