The Failed Actor
You'd think, in a movie about speech therapy, it would be the failed actor-turned-speech-teacher that would be a quack and the actual doctors that would be profoundly helpful. You'd think that… and you'd be wrong.
Not in this Academy Award-winning treatise on the blending of psychology and elocution. In this bad boy, it's the bad actor/model airplane maker/swear word enthusiast that turns out being the most medically profound man in, it seems, the entire island of Great Britain.
Plus, he's super-lovable.
We find out late in the movie that Lionel Logue doesn't have any formal training in speech therapy—he's actually a pretty bad actor who just kind of fell into the business of speech therapy back in Australia when people asked him to help shell-shocked World War One vets learn how to speak again. Logue shows us his hilarious side whenever he acts, like when he gets up for an audition with an amateur theatre company and reads, "Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this sun of York."
Logue's speech and pronunciation is perfect, but his emotion and general acting ability leaves a lot to be desired. You can see why he's better at the speech part than the acting part.
After Lionel has finished auditioning, the head of the amateur theatre company stops him to say, "Yes... well... Lionel, I think our dramatic society is looking for someone slightly younger and a little more regal." In other words, he is calling Lionel old and…well… common. Lionel is Australian, you see, and no English theatregoer would ever believe that a dude with an Australian accent could be King of England.
Here you can see that Lionel is the victim of several prejudices. So no matter how invincible he might seem in his sessions with Bertie, he's still a vulnerable guy with broken dreams of his own.
When he first started working as a speech therapist, Logue didn't take long before he realized that the shell-shocked war veterans he was working with had psychological cause for their inability to speak.
Up to this point, everyone had assumed that things like stuttering were caused by physical problems. But pioneers like Logue knew that the reasons were mostly psychological. As he tells Bertie at one point,
LOGUE: I did muscle therapy, exercise, relaxation, but I knew I had to go deeper. Those poor young blokes had cried out in fear, and no one was listening to them. My job was to give them faith in their voice and let them know that a friend was listening.
His skills as a speech therapist are based only on personal experience—which is why it makes sense that he doesn't put much faith in things like social class or a person's level of education. He knows that anyone can feel isolated and unheard, whether he's just a common dude from Australia or the King of England.
In the beginning, both Bertie and his wife Elizabeth find it inappropriate that Logue would want to be on an equal level with the King of England. But as Logue assures Elizabeth,
LOGUE: I can cure your husband. But for my method to work there must be trust and total equality in the safety of my consultation room. No exceptions.
A Good Friend
Lionel Logue is as solid as a rock. He's a good and faithful friend to Bertie, even though Bertie doesn't always appreciate it. In a moment of rage, Bertie reminds Logue that he (Bertie) is King of England and Logue is "the disappointing son of a brewer!"
Logue is hurt by the comment, but like a good friend, he doesn't let it destroy his loyalty to Bertie. Instead, they make up and move on. By the end of the movie, Lionel tells Bertie at the moment of his big speech:
LOGUE: Forget everything else and just say it to me. Say it to me, as a friend.
And that's exactly what Bertie does. Bolstered by the fact that he has his friend by his side, Bertie kills it. If Logue doesn't have the qualities of a good friend, we don't know who does.