The Madness of King George

Movie Information

In Brief: Beautifully crafted, wittily written and cleverly directed film version of the play detailing the descent of Britain's King George III (you know, the one who lost the colonies) into insanity -- the things done to treat him and the plots hatched against him. A splendid cast pulls it all off with great aplomb.
Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys)
Starring: Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Rupert Graves, Amanda Donohoe, Rupert Everett
Rated: PG-13

Nicholas Hytner’s The Madness of King George (1994)—adapted from Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of George III with a title change, presumably for American audiences—was a big deal when it came out, but you scarcely ever see it even referenced today. In fact, watching it again for this showing was the first time I’d seen it or thought about it since it was new. And watching it again suggested a lot of the reason why it’s more or less gone by the wayside. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the movie. It’s impeccably made. It’s cleverly written. It has a to-die-for cast. The production design is gorgeous, as is the cinematography. The direction is often as witty as the dialogue. So what’s wrong? Nothing really—and that may be the problem. It’s so slick, so clever and so incredibly lucid that it neither leads to much in the way of thought, discussion or, unfortunately, repeat viewing. A second look is entertaining, enjoyable, occasionally amusing. But does it reveal any new truths, depths or insights? I’m going with no. The same I find to be true of the other Hytner-Bennett collaboration, The History Boys (2006). It’s excellent stuff. But it’s so perfect that it’s all there in one serving. There’s not much undercurrent for further exploration. At the same time, I kind of envy anyone who has the chance to see it for that sublime first time.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Madness of King George at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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3 thoughts on “The Madness of King George

  1. Big Al

    To paraphrase the descendants of the HMS Bounty, King George III did not “lose the colonies”, we TOOK IT FROM HIM.

    Good movie, though.

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