A couple of weeks go, a part of my childhood was ripped away from me. ‘
It was so sudden and so tragic that it’s hard to really wrap my head around it. Robin Williams was the most manic and amazing comedians of his age and to have him take his own life just seems antithetical to what he was.
I wanted to take a look at a couple of his best performances in film.
He had so many great performances that it was hard to boil it down to just two.
But I did my best.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this movie, but it made a huge impression the 154 times that I saw it between 1997 and 2005. The story of a young custodian (Matt Damon) at Harvard who shows his genius level intellect when he solves an unsolvable equation. He never finished high school, but he reads voraciously and is smarter than most of the professors.
The catch is that his social skills are Southie level. He gets in bar fights just about every week and his friends (including Ben and Casy Affleck) are…well…we’ll just say at a lower level than Will.
One professor (Stellan Skarsgard) finds him out and offers to help him, but only if he goes to psychologist Sean Maguire (Williams). It helps a little when Will starts seeing Skylar (Minnie Driver).
Williams won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the strongly sensitive psychologist who puts Will in his place and comes to love the guy like a son. There are those who think that Anthony Hopkins was robbed when he lost for his role in Amistad. Hopkins was amazing, no doubt about that. Williams, though, did something that we hadn’t seen him do before at the time. He let a bit of the darkness out. Yes, he was a loving man who treated Will with respect, which was something that Will wasn’t used to. But there were scenes where Sean nearly beat Will into submission. “If you ever disrespect my wife again, I will end you.” That line has stuck with me since my first viewing.
I love this movie. I could (and have) watch it over and over again and never get tired of it. One of the main reasons is Robin Williams’ performance. Sean Maguire is the psychologist I wish I had.
THE FISHER KING (1991)
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Richard LaGravenese
Terry Gilliam has directed a lot of amazing films that I love with all my heart. None has been so touching as The Fisher King. I haven’t seen it in years, but I still remember the first time like it was yesterday.
Jack (Jeff Bridges) is a selfish New York shock jock whose life is falling apart. He just doesn’t know it yet. One day he runs into Parry (Williams), a homeless man who has created a world of his own among the trash heaps of New York City. He’s obviously a pretty brilliant man, but he’s also obviously a broken man in many ways. He talks about dragons and floating fat people. What drove him where he is is a mystery to Jack, and he’s eventually drawn into Parry’s world more and more until he starts trying to help Parry get out of the hole he’s in. What he doesn’t realize is that Parry’s going to help him out of his own hole.
Parry was pretty much a perfect role for Williams. He got to be as manic as he could possibly be, but still tug at the heartstrings in ways that he tried many times after, but never quite managed in the same way, although he put in many brilliant performances after this one. There’s nothing cloying about this movie. It is Terry Gilliam from start to finish.
And it’s a beautiful film that deserves a bigger audience than it already has.
I’ve loved Robin Williams since the days of Mork & Mindy.
I had hoped to keep seeing great performances and brilliant stand-up for at least a couple more decades.
Sadly, depression, sadness and loneliness were too much of a draw for him. No one I know has killed themselves because of depression, but I have lost people to the disease. It’s an experience that I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through.
But I also want healthy people to understand something about their loved ones who suffer: You will never fully understand.
There’s so much more going on than just “sadness.”
It makes the sufferer do things that they wouldn’t normally do. Things they don’t actually WANT to do. Things that will bring them ANY feeling for just a few minutes. They’ll regret it later, but that’s not an issue. And it can ruin lives if it’s allowed to.
If you or a loved one suffers from this disease, please get help. Do it now. Don’t let it take over. If there’s one good thing to come of this, it’s the fact that the National Suicide Prevention Hotline has gotten tons more calls than it ever has. The number is 1-800-273-TALK. Use it.
Just because it’s so hard for me to narrow this down to two movies, here are a few Honorable Mentions:
- THE BIRDCAGE
- DEATH TO SMOOCHY
- THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP
- ONE HOUR PHOTO
- DEAD POETS SOCIETY
- MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON