I had a rare treat last week: I went to the movies alone. While Darling Husband took the kids to experience the latest Narnia installment in all of its 3-D glory, I sat contentedly in the neighboring theater delighting in “The King’s Speech.” The film was right up my alley: modern historical topic (my specialization in college), British (spent a year studying there while in college), with a focus on duty and manners (some of the Uncommonhousewife’s favorite topics).
I was quite possibly the youngest person in the half-full theater that Wednesday afternoon. The rest of my fellow movie-goers were either Baby Boomers or those born during World War II, therefore having no memory of those years. Hardly a group you would expect to cheer for a stuffy old royal struggling to preserve the monarchy. Yet we did cheer and laugh out loud. The acting was brilliant. Colin Firth deserves every Best Actor award there is for his portrayal of George VI, a severe stammerer. But why did a movie with absolutely no action draw us all in and keep us holding our breath in suspense at times?
An easy answer is that we were simply rooting for the underdog. I experienced the frustration and anxiety associated with stuttering when Junior went through a brief bout of it between the ages of 2 and 3. He had been an early talker, perhaps trying to imitate his big sister, when all of a sudden he began to stutter. It only lasted a few months, but it was so difficult to watch him struggle to get those first syllables out of his mouth without prompting him or saying, “Come on, spit it out.” Certainly we in the audience wanted to see King George overcome his challenges, even if he was the biggest royal snob.
And that’s the interesting thing. We love him for his snobbiness. We like to see him relaxed and at ease in private with his family, but we respect his dignity and sense of duty to pick up the pieces after his brother tosses over the monarchy in favor of his own personal happiness. So are we Americans, the most self-centered society of “if it feels good, do it” folks, coming around to the ideas of sacrifice of personal comfort, the need for civility, and the realization that there are things more important than personal fulfilment? I certainly hope so. And Peggy Noonan seems to think so in her recent Wall Street Journal article. She describes the movie this way:
It’s about someone being a grown-up, someone doing his job, someone assuming responsibility. It is about a time when someone was taking on the mantle of leadership, someone was sacrificing his comfort for his country.
Someone was old-school. Someone wasn’t cool.
Wow. Not exactly the stuff that typically makes a move a block-buster. As I said, Colin Firth should and very well might win Best Actor awards. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the film passed over for Best Picture awards. These days, that honor usually goes to edgy, risky (or risqué) films about oppression or upending traditional values. No matter. Perhaps the big names in the cast will draw enough viewers to send a message to film-makers: “This is what we want to see and need to see in these dreary and dangerous times!”
In spite of the R-rating (entirely for language), I’m thinking the kids should see this movie. Everyone should see this movie. Go see it. Today! Shoo!