Weekend Open Thread: Robin Williams edition   1 comment

“A comedian can only last till he either takes himself serious or his audience takes him serious.”-Will Rogers

In ancient literature, a comedy was considered a play with a happy ending, where the main character(s) triumphed in the end. Unfortunately, the story of Robin Williams’ life might be considered a tragedy under the ancient literary definition, in spite of our association of him with the more modern definition of comedies as humorous.

While we will best remember him for the many times he made us laugh, in such roles as Mork (Mork & Mindy), Adrian Cronauer (Good Morning, Vietnam), and the Genie (Aladdin), I would like to take a moment to consider some of his best serious roles:

1. The Fisher King (1991): Consider the premise of this movie (description from IMDB):

After hearing a popular DJ [played by Jeff Bridges] rail against yuppies, a madman carries out a massacre in a popular New York bar. Dejected and remorseful, the DJ strikes up a friendship with Parry [played by Robin Williams], a former professor who became unhinged and then homeless after witnessing his wife’s violent death in the bar shooting.

It doesn’t sound like a Robin Williams film, does it? But then you get to rest of the story:

The DJ seeks redemption by helping Parry in his quest to recover an item that he believes is the Holy Grail and to win the heart of the woman he loves.

Fisher King was Robin Williams as Don Quixote in a modern setting. I would argue this is one of the best “feel good” movies ever made. If you don’t come out of this film with a smile on your face, and humming “How about You?”, then you are missing Williams’ gift: The ability to pull you from the depths of despair and bring happiness. It is sadly ironic this gift didn’t work on himself.

2. What Dreams May Come (1998): When I first heard that Williams had died, this was the first movie that came to my mind:

Chris Neilson [played by Robin Williams] dies to find himself in a heaven more amazing than he could have ever dreamed of. There is one thing missing: his wife. After he dies, his wife, Annie killed herself and went to hell. Chris decides to risk eternity in hades for the small chance that he will be able to bring her back to heaven. (Written by Scott Huntsman)

When I discovered my wife had not seen this movie, I made sure she did. What Dreams May Come was one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen, plus one of the most touching stories. If there is a Heaven like the one shown in this film, I pray Williams is there now.

3. Bicentennial Man (1999): I was torn between this film and Awakenings (1990). But Awakenings was more of a Robert De Niro vehicle, albeit a slightly better film, which I also recommend.

Bicentennial Man was the best film adaptation of an Isaac Asimov story (although I, Robot was actually a better story in my opinion, the Will Smith movie fell short of the original story), mainly because of Robin Williams, who was able to communicate emotion from a robotic character. Few actors could pull that off, and I would rate this film as Williams’ greatest acting performance.

One last thing to add before I call it a week: There are several internet videos of Robin Williams with his idol/mentor, Jonathon Winters (here is one example). Watching those two together, I have to wonder if we would even be talking about Robin Williams being dead now, if Winters were still alive (Winters died in April 2013). They had a magical relationship that seemed to bring joy to both of them.

That is all for me this week. The weekend open thread is yours now folks, so talk about whatever you like, and enjoy your weekend.

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Posted August 15, 2014 by edmcgon in Movies, Open Thread

One response to “Weekend Open Thread: Robin Williams edition

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  1. Robin Williams was a staple of our “family time.” My family loves to laugh and Mr. Williams provided that for decades. I’m still a bit emotionally stretched over this tragedy but that’s my problem and will pass in time.

    I can’t help but add my appreciation of Williams work to this post. I mostly agree with your movie selections and respect the Bicentennial man pick – outside the box. I don’t recall Williams doing any biographical work such as Drew Carey’s “Man on the Moon,” but I’ve always felt his serious roles were extremely underrated. I will forever cherish Good Morning Vietnam (the first PG-13 movie my mother approved), but Dead Poets Society has always resonated with me as I was at a similar age as his students when I first saw it. His grief after the suicide of a student was palpable, he really made me feel what he was emoting.

    Williams also played a credible psychopath in Insomnia with Pacino. I felt Williams stole the show from Pacino with that role. The only knock on his career to which I might admit would be Death to Smoochie.

    Like any great talent, my feelings of loss and remorse at his passing are purely selfish because I just want more.

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