Archive for March, 2011

The King’s English Doesn’t Cut the Mustard in America

This week, The Harvey Weinstein Company, distributor of “The King’s Speech,” announced the theater-release of a PG-13 version of the film, out on April 1. According to an official statement by TWC’s president of theatrical distribution and home entertainment, Eric Lomis, “The action enables those to whom it speaks most directly – young people who are troubled by stuttering, bullying and similar trials – to see it.”

The 2011 winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture–starring Colin Firth as the stammering King George VII and Geoffrey Rush as his unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue–was tagged as R-rated due primarily to the number of times the F-word is repeated. While I think that re-marketing it as a “family film” will certainly reach a much broader audience and increase revenue for a film operating on a $15 million production budget, I have two practical (in my opinion) objections to it.

1: the cursing in the film is not merely profanity for profanity’s sake–it isn’t in the script for shock-value, though it does certainly provide comic relief, a point to which I’ll return momentarily. The cursing actually serves a legitimate clinical, therapeutic function; when Bertie curses, he doesn’t stammer, and Logue incorporates the curse-words into their exercises both to draw Bertie out of his shell and to train him to speak normally–the two of which are interrelated. (Not to mention, if we don’t think today’s youth are using far more colorful expressions than Bertie and Logue make use of, then we’re fooling ourselves; I hardly think their wayward wordplay is in danger of corrupting virgin ears).

2: anyone who has seen the film in its original splendor will agree that the cursing scenes are some of, if not the most humorous scenes. Colin Firth’s execution of the mechanics of the stammer was so masterful that there were moments throughout the film, at least for me, that were intensely draining (though not unenjoyable); he allows the audience to experience the physical and emotional discomfort of coping with a crippling speech disorder to such an extent that the comic relief is a vital part of the viewing experience. Are there other ways of conveying humor than profanity? Certainly, but I can’t help feeling that this is an action that tampers with the integrity of the art form.

Nevertheless, I can’t deny the logic of the marketing tactic, and it will be interesting to see whether or not it proves effective.

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