Adapted by screenwriter Alan Bennett from his play, THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE recounts a remarkable episode in the life of George III, who in 1788 experienced temporary insanity as a result of a metabolic imbalance known as porphyria. Despite an Oscar-nominated performance by Nigel
Hawthorne, Bennett's theatrical triumph proves curiously flat on the screen.
England is in political turmoil: the unpopular King George III (Nigel Hawthorne) has antagonized his dissolute son, the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett), while Prime Minister Pitt (Julian Wadham) is in the midst of a power struggle with Whig leader Fox (Jim Carter). Meanwhile, George's behavior
is becoming increasingly erratic. Doctors are called in to treat him and the robust, roaringly confident monarch soon becomes a babbling, foul-mouthed, hyperactive mess. Then Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) learns of Dr. Willis (Ian Holm), whose innovative methods have proven remarkably successful
in curing madness. With Pitt's help, she arranges to have George treated by the decidedly independent physician.
Acclaimed stage director Nicholas Hytner was obviously determined to make his cinematic debut a memorable one. He doesn't just open up the play; he scatters it across sun-drenched country fields, seemingly all of London, and every nook and cranny of the royal residence. Despite the talents
involved, however, the effect is surprisingly static and unexciting, probably because the source material is the kind of talky tour de force that is best carried off on the stage. Even so, Hawthorne's performance is tremendously intelligent and affecting. He manages to strike a difficult and
necessary balance between comedy and pathos throughout, energetically attacking Bennett's best scenes, in which the spectacularly vulgar symptoms of the King's condition subvert the bloodless, artificial refinement of aristocratic manners.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Adapted by screenwriter Alan Bennett from his play, THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE recounts a remarkable episode in the life of George III, who in 1788 experienced temporary insanity as a result of a metabolic imbalance known as porphyria. Despite an Oscar-nom… (more)