Monday, September 19, 2011

The King's Speech

I'm not always the last on the bandwagon but, when I am, I wait a year. I wanted to see The King's Speech when it came out in theatres - Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, AND Edward VIII? Yes, please! I read the memoirs of the Duke of Windsor (the title Edward VIII was given after abdicating) in undergrad and wrote a paper on the abdication. It is fascinating to me on multiple levels. So, a movie that deals with the abdication and George VI's ascent to the throne was high on my list. But going to the movies is expensive these days and, thus, I have just now got around to seeing it on Netflix. So anyway, if you are late like I am and four Oscar awards aren't enough to convince you, please let my obviously-more-important-than-the-Academy opinion sway you as to this movie's merit.

I recall reading a review of the film at the time it came out (forgive me, I cannot recall where) and a commendation of the subtle skill in Colin Firth's accent. The stammering aside, Firth does a great job of maintaining the slightest of lisps throughout the movie. Also, this movie has everyone. Did you notice Jennifer Ehle (Lizzie Bennet)? Her mouth is unmistakable. Peter Pettigrew, Dumbledore, Brother Cadfael, Mr. Collins... for serious.

My one issue with the film is the portrayal of David (Edward VIII). He is a total ponce. Now, to be fair, I didn't know the Duke of Windsor personally and I'm sure to his family and (probably) subjects his choice made no sense; he was just being dense and sentimental. He's a King, his personal desires come last in a long line. But I still felt their depiction of David and Wallace is unfair. Granted, most of my knowledge of the scandal comes from his memoirs and, obviously, he's not going to make himself sound like a douche there. Through my readings (which did include other works), I've come to feel everyone was in the right. David loved Wallace, whether it was right for him to love her I cannot say, but I do believe he loved her and he wanted to marry her. He recognized that the Church, Parliament, and people would not accept their marriage. Rather than marry her and stay on the throne, essentially leading to a civil war, he abdicated. It was the only choice left to him. And I think Wallace loved David. She didn't need money, both of her former husbands had plenty, and, though she became the Duchess of Windsor, I don't think she was in it for that somewhat useless title. On the other side of the coin, I am very sympathetic to the sense of betrayal felt by the people of Great Britain. Their King essentially said, "I like you but not enough." And from a family perspective, of course they were upset. Wallace was a bad influence that distracted David from his duty. Frankly, I think the situation turned out the only way it could have, everyone acted entirely in character for the situation. And, if George VI hadn't been on the throne, who's to say how the critical War years might have been. Poor Bertie, saddled with a throne he doesn't want in 1936, at war with Germany by 1939, the war doesn't end until 1945 and in 1952 he passed away. So much of his reign was in that shadow.

P.S. Elizabeth the II has been reigning since she acceded the throne following her father. Every James Bond , from Connery to Craig, has served Her Majesty.

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