"Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter,
Is sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles."
If the above tongue-twister doesn't ring a bell, then you had best run, not walk to see "The King's Speech." I saw it yesterday and it's hands-down my favorite movie of the year.
(Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter as King George VI and the Queen Mother)
Ostensibly, it's about King George VI and his efforts to overcome a debilitating stammer with the help of an unconventional speech therapist (played by Geoffrey Rush).
But like all great movies, its emotional tentacles stretch much deeper.
"The King's Speech" is about bravery, perseverance and forging ahead despite crippling fear. It's about faith. It's about friendship. It's about family. And it's about the challenges of being human. Who can't identify with that?
Colin Firth plays the reluctant monarch with a sensitive dignity that's both heartbreaking and inspiring. (Cue "Best Actor" nomination.)
(King George VI; Colin Firth)
As his kind and supportive wife, Helena Bonham-Carter brings a deep emotional resonance to the role of Elizabeth. Her brown eyes alone should get an Oscar nomination - liquid pools of love they are.
(Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon; Helena Bonham-Carter)
Visually, the film is a wonder for design nerds like you and me. Apparently, costume designer Jenny Beavan was restricted to a pauperish budget, but trust me, you will never know it.
Men, do you covet George VI's slim-cut elegance? A few internet clicks led me to the Savile Row tailor to whom he awarded the Royal Warrant in 1940 - Henry Poole & Co., still operating today. It's amazing to think that all these years later you can have a bespoke suit made by the same shop. His patterns are probably still in the back somewhere.
(Restrained tailoring via Henry Poole & Co.)
Ladies, if dowdy-chic is your thing, this 1930's-looking coat is quite close to the one Helena Bonham-Carter wears in the film. Add a lashing of red lipstick for heightened glamour.
(Tina Berlyn coat with fur collar, via here)
And oh, the set design. In the scenes that took place in Lionel Logue's modest London home, it was all I could do to tear my eyes away from his faded Art Deco wallpaper.
I found a similar pattern below on Ebay. Yes, it's white, but guess what? It's paintable. You have to admit that's kind of genius if you're a dab hand with a brush.
(Paintable Art Deco wallpaper, via Ebay)
Helena is ravishing, but so are those peacock blue walls behind her.
Walls, wainscotings, moldings, mullions -- somebody please paint something this color and report back.
(Benjamin Moore Symphony Blue via here)
When Bertie first goes for therapy, the rough luxe surfaces of Lionel's office elicited a gasp of wonder from several members of the audience, myself included. They're gorgeously alive with the phantoms of a thousand peeling colors. I love the tension created between the raw honesty of the walls and the uptight refinement of the gilt settee -- it's such a powerful metaphor for the collision between commoner and king.
I wonder if the production designer was inspired by the wall treatments of London's Rough Luxe hotel. If so, how brilliant.
(Above photos via Rough Luxe Hotel)
The quiet power of "The King's Speech" continues to reverberate long after you leave the theater. Even now as I sit writing this, Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If" has lodged itself in my brain and I can't help wondering if it held any personal significance for George VI. It was published in 1910 and so he certainly knew it. Below, two stanzas which to fit his situation perfectly:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
To hear one of King George VI actual speeches fr0m 1939, click below. (Note: If it doesn't play, just click on the the Youtube link.)
Fascinating Tidbit: One of the strategies Lionel Logue taught George VI was that if he encountered words beginning with a challenging consonant, he should try to "hop up" onto them (e.g. to say "a-pledge" instead of "pledge", "a-way" instead of "way" and so on). Listen carefully to his speech and you can hear him use these little tricks. Also, he briefly hesitates at about 0:40 which - if you've seen the movie - is extremely poignant.