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The Madness of King George Movie Review

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When Edward and Mrs. Simpson first hit international television screens in 1978, the actor playing Walter Monckton, a bespectacled advisor to the King, nearly stole the entire show. Nigel Hawthorne continued to play supporting roles in films and on television, but onstage, he was recognized as the star his enormous talent ought to have made him on big and small screens alike. Finally, Hawthorne has been given the chance to show movie fans just what theatrical audiences have been raving about. In The Madness of King George, Hawthorne achieves the impossible; who other than Prince Charles has ever extended a shred of sympathy to George III? But Hawthorne succeeds in making us care about the mad monarch of 1788. At best, His Majesty was, by many accounts, not a bad sort and well meaning, but was easily led by self-serving advisors much brighter than he was. For most of Alan Bennett's retelling of George's nervous breakdown, we do not see him at his best, but wracked with a disease later suspected to be porphyria, then diagnosed as madness by the king's advisors. After assorted barbaric attempts to treat his illness, the King is referred to a Doctor Willis (splendidly played by Ian Holm), who proposes a radical cure. Meanwhile, his dissipated and profligate son (Rupert Everett is ideally cast as the future King George IV) schemes to wrest power away from his daft father so that he may be appointed Regent. The loyal Queen Charlotte (Oscar nominee Helen Mirren) and her lady-in-waiting (Amanda Donohoe) have other ambitions, AND crafty approaches for achieving them. Bennett nails down all the political intrigues with wit and humor and with a sharp understanding of who the real players are. Being on the wrong side at an inconvenient time can lead to royal banishment even faster than outright treachery. You may need to make deals with the traitors, but it's easier to sacrifice a friend who's too intimately familiar with regal fallibility. One of Hawthorne's best moments as the recovering King comes in a garden sequence when he tries to show a courtier how much better he is by reading from Shakespeare. Alas, after picture's end, the King finally did lose his mind, and George IV's regency and reign considerably eroded the prestige and influence of the monarchy until his niece Victoria acceded to the throne, but that's another story. (Oscar nominee Hawthorne's other films on video include S*P*Y*S, Holocaust, A Tale of Two Cities, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Woman Called Golda, Firefox, Pope John Paul II, Jenny's War, Tartuffe, Demolition Man, and Richard III. Mirren, of course, can be seen in dozens of films on video dating all the way back to 1968's A Midsummer Night's Dream.)

1994 (R) 110m/C GB Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Rupert Everett, Amanda Donohoe, Rupert Graves, Julian Wadham, John Wood, Julian Rhind-Tutt; D: Nicholas Hytner; W: Alan Bennett; C: Andrew Dunn; M: George Fenton. Academy Awards ‘94: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration; British Academy Awards ‘95: Best Actor (Hawthorne); Cannes Film Festival ‘95: Best Actress (Mirren); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘94: Best Actor (Hawthorne), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Mirren); British Academy Awards ‘95: Best Actress (Mirren), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director (Hytner), Best Film, Best Supporting Actor (Holm), Best Score. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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