Sitting here, thinking about my reaction to the sad Robin Williams news. I “heard” first thing this morning when I checked my phone for new podcasts and saw the latest episode of Marc Maron’s WTF was called “Remembering Robin Williams”. Another first for me as I’ve never found something out that way before.
I was going to compile a list of my favourite Williams’ movies. And there are a few – I think Moscow on the Hudson is underrated, I see why Toys was a disaster but I kinda like it anyway, Jumanji is a whole lot of fun and he gives the central role warmth and pathos, Insomnia and One Hour Photo (among others) show his ability to just be really creepy. Then there’s Dead Poets’ Society. It seems fashionable these days to look down on that movie and I guess I can see why – it’s idealistic and sentimentally manipulative – but actually I still love it. I think maybe I just saw it at the right age – around about the same as the characters. To be inspired, to think you could be different and make a difference, to see that language itself could be an adventure, that was something that really made sense.
Anyway, as I said I could talk about several movies. But really, for me, there is only one:
The Fisher King.
This is an incredible movie. It mixes myth and fairy tale with a story of the harsh realities of modern life, mental illness and love. It’s funny but dark, endearing and scary, bracing and thoughtful. A lot of that comes from the script, a boatload of course from Terry Gilliam but a lot comes from Robin Williams’ performance. In other films he gets to be funny or dramatic – here he gets to show his full range. There are a couple of moments where the “crazy” acting is just his stand-up schtick but you even forgive that because, well, it is Robin Williams and he is charming as well as funny.
And the story is one of terrible loss and ultimate redemption. I have found it not only moving but genuinely comforting at various times in my life. Great movies can actually do that.
Here’s the scene that gives the story of the title:
the story of a fool who brought healing.