The Madness of King George, Based on Alan Bennett's acclaimed play The Madness of George III, takes a dark-humored look at the mental decline of King George III of England. Taking place in 1788, the film’s story begins three decades into George's reign, as the unstable king (Nigel Hawthorne) begins to show signs of increasing dementia, from violent fits of foul language to bouts of forgetfulness. The King's prime minister William Pitt (Julian Wadham) and his wife Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) are determined to protect the throne during this time of weakness, when many see it as an opportunity to overthrow the unpopular George, whom they blamed for the loss of the American colonies. Although doctors are brought in, their archaic treatments of the time prove of little value and therefore, in desperation, they turn to Dr. Willis (Ian Holm), a harsh, unconventional specialist whose unusual methods recall modern psychiatry. George experiences an unfamiliar anger and haughtiness as Willis struggles to break through to the mad king. Stressing the absurdity of the entire situation, Bennett's witty screenplay emphasizes dry humor over tragedy, even utilizing references to King Lear for comic effect.
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Ratings and Reviews
Critics Consensus: Thanks largely to stellar all-around performances from a talented cast, The Madness of King George is a funny, entertaining, and immensely likable adaptation of the eponymous stage production.