Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
on 22 December 2005
I was thrilled when Nigel Hawthorne was nominated for the Best Actor oscar for his performance as George III in this film, not only because this was a stunning performance, but because of his history on the stage (which I was privileged to attend often in London) and with BBC productions. Sir Nigel (as he is now fashioned) is perhaps best known by television audiences as Sir Humphrey Appleby, the scheming civil service mandarin from the Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister series. I have admired him for years (and most recently got to see his great performance of Lear in London).
This film also starred such British acting heavy-weights as Helen Mirren as the queen (think of the Prime Suspect series on the BBC/PBS Mystery, among others), Ian Holm as the physician (most recently noted for his performance of Lear, now available on video), and Rupert Everett as the chomping-at-the-bit Prince of Wales.
The drama was intensified by collapsing or conflating actual historical events (alas, the play and movie would have one think that good king George actually recovered his wits and ruled; the truth is more sad, that he had recurring bouts of delirium and hysteria until finally succumbing to a dementia that lasted for years, and thus the Regency was established).
Poor George has gotten a 'bum rap' in America for being the 'tyrant' against whom the colonials rebelled; history shows, however, that far from the being the evil dictator, he was in fact perhaps the kindest and most enlightened monarch in Europe at the time, well loved by the people, and concerned for government more than his own pleasure. Artistic, well humoured and well mannered, George was perhaps the last monarch in Europe who should have been so tarred by the negative history with which he has been saddled.
This movie gives a little insight into that character of man. Set after the war with the colonies, George begins a slow process of deterioration. Seen here are the inhumane treatments prescribed for such people (I wonder if our modern medicine with machines and contraptions will look similarly barbaric 200 years from now?).
Lavish sets and costumes accentuate the film to give a very royal feel. Political intrigue, disfunctional family dynamics, and social class consciousness all arise in differing measure to make this a truly intricate plot; however, much of the politics and psychology are more for modern audiences than are actual re-creations or representations.
My favourite scene has to be the one in which George is reciting, in the gardens at Kew, a scene from Lear, in which Lear is slipping into madness.
'Lear!? Is this wise?'
'I don't know, I'd never read it!' came the doctor's response.
To see the king slip into sanity so subtly as his performance of Lear presents a slide into insanity is a treasure.
The postscript at the end, a direct criticism of the royal family, in which the king pronounces that their main purpose is to be a model family (and the hint in the closing that the disease of porphyria, George's most-likely ailment, is hereditary) is amusing if not entirely appropriate.
In all, a fabulous film.