Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s about the movie The King’s Speech.
Last Tuesday at 5:30 I lined up with my family for movie tickets. We thought it would be a safe time to venture out; sure it was a Tuesday, but who sees a movie over the dinner hour? A lot of people, it seems, when that particular movie is The King’s Speech. By the time we made it to the front of the line, it was sold out.
Sunday afternoon we decided to try again—and barely found five seats together. More people were going to see a movie about a king who stammered than all the people in the other theatres combined. And The King’s Speech brought out movie goers of all ages. My teens and my mother came with us. Do you know how rare it is to get my mother into a movie theatre?
She’ll go only for the extraordinary, and this movie fit the bill, and not just because of Colin Firth (how can you go wrong with Colin Firth?). All the characters were magical, believable, endearing, and deep.
But the characters they played were also all very good people.
When’s the last time you saw a movie that centred around finding inner strength to do one’s duty and love one’s family, even at great personal cost? Such things are hardly sexy, especially when no car chases are involved.
Most of today’s entertainment revolves around selfish people attempting to have as much fun as they can at everybody else’s expense. King George VI, though, was not selfish. He simply stuttered. Yet as history thrust the new king into the limelight, he needed to find a voice. In a time of great national peril, Britain needed someone to speak for them and rally them; King George VI, whether he liked it or not, needed to be that person.
And so we see a man doing his duty, even when every bone in his body wants to run. Throughout the film, people did the noble thing, the hard thing, the courageous thing. The movie leaves you feeling as if you have not just touched history, but have touched something profoundly good.
And the movie has raked in huge gobs of money.
Will Hollywood connect the dots and see that perhaps those two things are related?
Do you remember My Big, Fat Greek Wedding? It cost something like $5,000,000 to make, and it took in $250,000,000. The King’s Speech cost $15,000,000, and it made three times that in the U.S. alone in its first few weeks of release.
Why doesn’t Hollywood make more “good” movies?
After a recent trek through the new releases at Blockbuster Video, I left empty-handed, feeling like I needed a bath. Most movies today are disgusting. One school of thought says that eventually Hollywood will wise up, because money talks. I used to believe that. I’m no longer so sure. I figure most people in the movie studios are so profoundly messed up they wouldn’t recognize good if it bit them on their very expensive surgically-altered noses. I was flipping through a star magazine recently, and page after page was about who had just gotten divorced, who was having a baby through a surrogate, and which male senior citizen’s young wife was now pregnant. They think dysfunction, affairs, selfishness, and self-absorption are normal. A story that highlights duty, honour, and commitment thus won’t resonate when their own lives are so ugly.
The best line of the movie occurs when the speech therapist says to his startled wife, “I don’t believe you’ve met King George VI?”. To the rest of Hollywood, I’d echo the sentiment: “I don’t believe you’ve met this honourable man.” And perhaps it’s time you did.
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UPDATE: The King’s Speech does have swearing in it, though, so keep it for kids 13 and up. Read the comments to see my take on that!