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before oscar by Kiera Tara O'Brien | 1 2 3
continued from page 2

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flick pick | The Madness of King George 1994
Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
Written by: Alan Bennett
Starring: Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Rupert Everett, Ian Holm
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy/drama
Watch it when you're in the mood for something:  witty
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Oscar factor (give it another one, come on!): /5 

Plot synopsis His Royal Highness George III -- Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, King of Great Britain, Ireland, and its many Colonies for over thirty years (though, not the Americans anymore, mind you) -- is ill. Rather ill to be precise. It seems his urine has gone blue and his language and behavior quite foul. But what do the ministers and other royals intend to do about the wily reigning monarch, superbly portrayed by Nigel Hawthorne? Who can stop the Heaven-anointed sovereign from indulging in 4 a.m. pajama jaunts across the countryside and such? His dutiful German wife, Queen Charlotte (Helen Mirren), would have him by her side for devoted safekeeping and affection -- and assistance in passing gas come bedtime. The bored and scheming Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett), eldest of His Majesty's 15 children, prefers the king abandoned to his delirium with all the powers of government transferred to his own satin-gloved hands. Dr. Willis (Ian Holm), a willful and common physician, seeks silence, order and submission from his patient, while the grave and stately Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Pitt (Julian Wadham), just wants the whole bloody mess sorted soon or he'll be out of power -- oh, how frustrating a monarch is! So, what is to become of our mad, beleaguered hero? But, more importantly, when will those blasted American Colonies come to their senses and rejoin the kingdom, what-what?

Review In this beautifully staged examination of the eccentricities of Britain's former monarch, King George III, actor Nigel Hawthorne and director Nicholas Hytner reprise their acclaimed efforts in Alan Bennett's play (The Madness of King George III) for the big screen. For Hytner, The Madness of King George is an admirable film-directing debut. His use of close-ups is perfectly timed to emphasize the many stages of George's mental and emotional disintegration, while wide shots -- some in frantic motion and some carefully poised -- serve as backstage sneak-peeks or idyllic "portrait" images of the sumptuous royal world in the late 1780s. Hawthorne as the mad (or just sickly?) King George is riveting. At times jovial and tender, and at others petulant and manic, he swings seamlessly from gentle husband to enraged monarch to defeated patient. Mirren, meanwhile, is a fine counterpart to his majesty as the strong and utterly loyal Queen Charlotte. Just as a single moment of lowered eyes exemplifies the final submission of Hawthorne's willful king, Mirren wordlessly displays the fragility and distress of a royal suddenly discovering the true powerlessness of her position. She even garnered an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role. The rest of the supporting actors are equally well cast. Everett brings depth to the foppish Prince of Wales, Holm is by no means the cheerful family physician modern families rely on and Wadham's Mr. Pitt embodies the attitude of a truly dry British statesman. Amongst a flurry of political and familial intrigue that somewhat reflects the well-publicized trials of the current royal family (a long lasting monarch and a restless prince-in-waiting), this film also provides disturbing insight into the far less sophisticated medical practices of the times.


Kiera Tara O'Brien absolutely adores muscly, gold-plated men like Oscar. From her home in London she didn't miss a minute of the Awards, from Gwen's apricot-colored Zac Posen gown of perfection to handsome man-in-black Clive Owen to the ultimate triumph of Al Gore and Planet Earth to (oh wow, there he is again!) Clive Owen. Pop a question or drop an Academy-related comment to kiera.tara@gmail.com.

more by Kiera Tara O'Brien:
old thyme delights | that 70s film: fright night classics | the witching hour: halloween chick flicks | nordic nosh

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