Insanely Good Fun
A few years after losing the Americas King George (Nigel Hawthorne) finds himself troubled with frequent abdominal pains which coincide with his seemingly losing it as he behaves increasingly irrationally. Whilst his court of physicians are useless, his son and heir, the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett), sees it as an opportunity to oust the old man by having him declared insane so he can become King. The Prince of Wales is not the only one trying to take advantage of the King's health as others start to scheme. With it seeming that there is little hope Prime Minister Pitt (Julian Wadham) along with Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) and a small group send for Dr. Willis (Ian Holm) a specialist in treating the mind and those with dementia.
"A meditation on power and the metaphor of the body of state", those are the words which I have read to describe "The Madness of King George" and I don't know about you but that is not only off putting but also sounds pretty pretentious. In fairness my main concern when it comes to movies will be whether or not I will be entertained and as such I am sure there will be those, maybe those of a more intellectual bent than myself, who might find those words tantalizing. But for those like me there is good news as on a simpler level "The Madness of King George" is entertaining.
That entertainment comes from a complete scattering of things starting with the outrageousness of the Royal Household and there is scene after scene which highlights the ridiculousness of it. One which stands out is King George waking up early and waking up his men in waiting who basically sleep on three shelves in a cupboard. It seems so ridiculous yet it builds into a scene of the King's insanity where in front of everyone he tries to have his way with Lady Pembroke (Amanda Donohoe), the Queen's Mistress of the Robes. This comical look at the royal household alongside the King's mental imbalance makes for lots of fun but it is fun built on story rather than just gags.
There is more because we also have the attitudes, scheming and general behaviour of others to the King's mental decline. From a doctor berating anyone who attempts to give an opinion to the Prince of Wales wanting to usurp his father it is again a lot of fun whilst telling the story of what went on. Plus there are some nice if you like wink moments as we see how the staff behave behind the Royal backs, tossing around the royal jewels when no one is looking.
But there is more and not only does "The Madness of King George" feature a cleverly selected choice of classical music which sets of every scene but it features some sublime performances. From Helen Mirren to Rupert Everett every actor embraces the comical nature of the movie with Nigel Hawthorne leading the way with a performance which is entertainingly decadent. But whilst Hawthorne makes us laugh at the King's insanity he also makes us understand the depth of his despair as he loses it.
What this all boils down to is that maybe "The Madness of King George" does work on some academic level but more importantly it works as a piece of entertainment with brilliant performances all round and plenty of depth to the humour.