“Find your voice.” That’s the tag line for The King’s Speech in recent newspaper ads and it seems apt, since the film continues to garner rave reviews for its script (see Ripe Writing). In a recent USA Today story called “Parts that Speak to the Heart,” the reviewer surveying this year’s Oscar picks talked about eloquence as a star player in memorable films, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Gone with the Wind.
The King’s Speech is an exceptionally word-intensive film: the lion’s share of the movie consists of two people standing around talking. As the USA Today writer, Susan Wloszczyna, observed: “The 12-time Oscar nominee and the favorite to win best picture manages to summon cinematic thrills, not with gunfire, explosions or clanking robots but with the power of words.” Well said, Susan!
The reviewer also points out that a number of other films nominated for Oscars: True Grit, The Social Network, and The Kids Are All Right, have all been singled out for “dialogue that amuses, touches or inspires.”
I’m not sure what else good dialogue should be doing, but just the fact that sheer word power is being given its due — and attracting huge audiences and high praise (not to mention big bucks!) is certainly heartening for us as writers. It shows us once again what I believe we know in our hearts: words and language still matter to people. Even in the era of texting and tweeting — or perhaps precisely because we’re word starved in our daily ways of connecting — film goers are attracted by dialogue that snaps, crackles, and pops. Surely that’s good news — and a spur to aim high.
Discourse marked by force and persuasiveness — that’s how Webster’s defines eloquence. Who can forget Scarlett’s immortal words, “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!” as she fingers the dust of Tara? Or the power of Atticus Finch’s closing argument as he wrestles to save an innocent man? Words count!