A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The King's Speech is an engrossing, fact-based drama that's rated R primarily for a few scenes of strong language (including one "f"-word-filled outburst). It has inspiring and empowering messages about triumphing over your fears. An indie about a king who stutters might not seem like typical adolescent fare, but don’t judge a movie by the brief synopsis: Teens will enjoy it as much as the grown-ups will if they give it a chance. In addition to the swearing, there's some social drinking, but that all fades in comparison to the movie's surprisingly moving themes of hope and perseverance. Note: An edited version of the movie that removes/lessens some of the strongest language has been rated PG-13 and released separately.
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What's the story?
In THE KING'S SPEECH, King George VI (Colin Firth), father to Queen Elizabeth II, inherited the British throne in 1936 after his brother Edward’s controversial abdication to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. Ultimately, he would lead the United Kingdom through World War II. But even before he ascended the throne, he was a man struggling with a persistent and troubling condition: He stammered. This was a source of deep despair for the soon-to-be king, who was known among friends and family members as Bertie. Despite his wife's (Helena Bonham Carter) best efforts and deep, abiding love, Bertie was stunted by rage and anxiety. But in this film based on true events, the king finally finds an ally in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist who helps Bertie gain the confidence and will to overcome his fears and let his voice be heard, literally and metaphorically.
Is it any good?
It is a singularly gratifying experience to watch this film's three stars -- Firth, Bonham Carter, and Rush -- do what they do best: act. It's like watching a master class. They disappear into their characters and make them both interesting and understandable. That's not always the case with films about royalty. Often, they're a visual (and unremarkable) summary of what we know from books; here, they fascinate with their trials, triumphs, and, most of all, humanity. And for a movie steeped in a feel-good message -- "You don't need to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were 5," intones one man -- it's far from clichéd.
Credit, too, goes to director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler, who himself conquered a stutter and was inspired by the king. They have created characters so rich that they compel viewers to rush to the Web for some post-viewing research. We know a lot about today's royals, but they don't hold a candle to their predecessors -- or at least to the ones portrayed here. The movie makes history and self-help irresistible. Bottom line? The King's Speech is superb.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages in The King's Speech. What are viewers meant to take away from watching?
How does the movie portray stuttering and those who suffer from it? Does it seem realistic and believable? How does Bertie's struggle with stuttering affect him?
How did the queen pave the way for the king's success? Are they positive role models? Do you think the movie portrays them accurately? Why might filmmakers change some details in a fact-based story?
- In theaters: November 26, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: April 19, 2011
- Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
- Director: Tom Hooper
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Communication, Humility, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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