Picks and Pans Review: The Madness of King George

UPDATED 01/16/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/16/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Rupert Everett

Throughout his 60-year reign, England's George III suffered at least four episodes of a mental illness that some modern authorities believe may have been porphyria. This is a hereditary metabolic disorder that, in extreme cases, induces dementia. In 1811, George was sufficiently incapacitated that his son, the Prince of Wales, was given authority as regent; George never completely recovered, and the Prince Regent ultimately became George IV For reasons that are not altogether evident, this tart little drama focuses on the repercussions of the king's 1788 bout. (A little tart drama, now that would be different.) Writer Alan Bennett, adapting his play The Madness of George III for the screen, considers all the relevant issues, picking them up, turning them about and setting them back neatly in place like a collection of glass paperweights.

There is the poor king's horrible anguish, of course, his son's behind-the-scenes maneuvering, the good queen's compassion, the doctors' assorted diagnoses. Then there are Larger Questions, such as: How can a man who can barely stand to acknowledge Parliament establish sovereignty over his own disruptive passions? But despite the warmth and spark of performances by Hawthorne as George, Mirren as the queen and the ubiquitous Everett (see page 20) as the prince, King George is both unmoving and uninvolving. It's rare that a movie can be faulted for being too well-reasoned, but there you are. (Not rated)

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