Based on Alan Bennett's acclaimed play The Madness of George III, The Madness of King George takes a dark-humored look at the mental decline of King George III of England. The film's story begins nearly three decades into George's reign, in 1788, as the unstable king (Nigel Hawthorne, reprising his stage role) begins to show signs of increasing dementia, from violent fits of foul language to bouts of forgetfulness. This weakness seems like the perfect chance to overthrow the unpopular George, whom many blamed for the loss of the American colonies, in favor of the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett), but the king's prime minister William Pitt (Julian Wadham) and his wife Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren) are determined to protect the throne. Doctors are brought in, but the archaic treatments of the time prove of little value. In desperation, they turn to Dr. Willis (Ian Holm), a harsh, unconventional specialist whose unusual methods recall modern psychiatry. Willis struggles to break through to the mad king, treating him with an anger and haughtiness George has never before experienced. 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. Hawthorne's fiery yet vulnerable performance received much critical praise, including Best Actor at the British Academy Awards and a nomination for the same at the Oscars.
~ Judd Blaise, All Movie Guide