Do you ever get the impression that a movie gets all of its acclaim and awards because of one scene? One good moment can elevate a movie from ordinary to extraordinary, and can make the rest of the film shine with reflected glow. And while I don’t think The King’s Speech was such a hit because of this one scene, I still could see how someone could make that argument. It’s rare that I wish while watching a film in the theater that I could rewind a scene and watch it over, but that was definitely the case with this scene. Take a look:
This is one of those great scenes that remains funny no matter how many times I watch it, and in some ways it’s almost funnier and more random without context. While I imagine that King George VI did not work on his stammer by extended cursing, it does seem like a believable moment in the context of the film and the character as presented. George has spent his life bullied by his father and repressed, both of which have contributed to his stammer. This wonderful moment of letting off steam is a big step for the character because it allows him to “get out of his head”, so to speak, and let his emotions direct his voice. Most big moments of character growth in films of this sort tend to be sappy, melodramatic scenes, where someone comes to a big realization about their life, but director Tom Hooper and writer David Seidler made a brilliant decision to use humor instead (though The King’s Speech has plenty of those sappy, melodramatic scenes, too).
Of course, the success of this scene lies entirely with Colin Firth as George and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue. Swearing can be a surprisingly difficult thing to pull off on film. So often it feels forced and unnatural, though obviously it’s supposed to feel a bit unnatural here. I love the Firth’s delivery, particularly when he offers up “fornication” when asked if he knows the f-word, despite knowing that that’s not what Logue wanted to hear, and the way he lets out the final “tits” with a bit of growing embarrassment at what he’s been saying. It’s an absolutely hilarious scene, and for me it helps define the rest of the film.
Of course, while the it is one of my favorites, the scene also has a bit of a bad reputation due to it being solely responsible for The King’s Speech getting an R rating. There have been a lot of debates about the rationale and the effectiveness of the MPAA as a whole, but giving the film an R rating for this is one of the most ridiculous examples of their failings. It’s ok to blow people to bits on screen, but heaven forbid someone use these words that once upon a time someone arbitrarily decided were “bad”. And don’t even get me started on sex. Who would have thought words and sex are so scary to people yet guns and violence are perfectly fine? But that’s a debate for another time in a longer format.
It’s rare that a scene can make me laugh as hard as this one does, while still making me feel something and advancing the plot and the characters. That, I think, is why it’s one of my favorites. The fact that we all need to let loose with a string of “fucks” every now and then doesn’t hurt the scene either. And if this scene alone is responsible for the film’s awards and acclaim, so much the better.
What do you think? What’s your favorite scene in The King’s Speech? What’s your favorite example of movie swearing? How ridiculous is it that the this film was rated R for this scene alone? Let me know in the comments!