Trip­pingly on the tongue

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Jonathan Richards For The New Mex­i­can

The King’s Speech, his­tor­i­cal drama/com­edy, rated R, Re­gal DeVargas, 4 chiles

IA­mong the many poignant, hi­lar­i­ous, sub­tle, and broad mo­ments that color di­rec­tor Tom Hooper’s mag­nif­i­cent The King’s Speech, one stands out: it comes at the film’s cli­max, when the king, de­liv­er­ing the speech of the ti­tle — which an­nounces to his sub­jects the nation’s un­der­tak­ing of hos­til­i­ties with Ger­many — ex­pe­ri­ences both the ter­ri­ble grav­ity of a com­mit­ment to war and the ec­static rush of a speech well and re­gally spo­ken, trip­pingly on the tongue.

Ge­orge VI of Eng­land (Colin Firth) was a stam­merer. In 1925, he de­liv­ered a speech at the clos­ing of the Bri­tish Em­pire Ex­hi­bi­tion at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium that pro­vides a painful book­end to this film’s story of dis­abil­ity, strug­gle, courage, and tri­umph. The Duke of York, as he then was, stood frozen at the mi­cro­phone, a mon­strous ap­pa­ra­tus that might as well have been a guil­lo­tine, and fought to squeeze out a few bursts of words at a time be­tween long and ag­o­niz­ing si­lences, as his wife (the Duchess El­iz­a­beth, played by He­lena Bon­ham Carter) and the pub­lic lis­tened, suf­fered, and squirmed.

The Duke had stam­mered since child­hood. Con­tempt and ir­ri­ta­tion, the rem­edy fa­vored by his fa­ther, Ge­orge V (Michael Gam­bon), had not helped (“I was fright­ened of my fa­ther, and I am damned well go­ing to see to it that my chil­dren are fright­ened of me,” the old king de­clared). Ridicule from his sib­lings was equally in­ef­fec­tive, and he grew to man­hood and pub­lic life crip­pled by the ter­ri­fy­ing im­pair­ment. To make mat­ters worse, his com­ing of age co­in­cided with the dawn of ra­dio. His speech de­fect would be on dis­play not just to those within earshot, but to mil­lions.

Af­ter a se­ries of grisly ther­a­pies in­volv­ing ev­ery­thing from mar­bles to cig­a­rettes, the duke is ready to give up. But the duchess learns of a speech ther­a­pist with a record of suc­cess and

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