How ‘The Fisher King’ Showcases Robin Williams at His Most Heartbreaking


Robin Williams is without doubt one of the best comedians of all time. That may sound like a press release akin to “water is wet” and different such remarks, however there’s no hurt in repeating one thing we will all agree with. While his celebrated profession in stand-up comedy whose expertise for rapid-fire improvisation made him one of the influential comedians of his era, it was his profession within the movie business that elevated him to ranges of admiration few celebrities can match. Most of those adhered to his comedic roots, however Williams was greater than prepared to step away from his consolation zone for roles that have been fairly at odds along with his common persona. For instance, his roles as a serial killer in Insomnia or as a depressed financial institution teller in Boulevard sees him intentionally appearing towards sort, with the distinction between them and a extra stereotypical Robin Williams efficiency solely heightening their severity. The variations are so giant you’d be forgiven for pondering that two fully totally different individuals have been working below one identify – a sense that, in hindsight, was sadly near the reality.

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It’s because of this why The Fisher King proves itself as a standout in his filmography, and one whose energy has solely grown within the years following its launch. Directed by Terry Gilliam, the movie stars Jeff Bridges as Jack Lucas, a former radio DJ whose insensitive remedy of a mentally unwell caller resulted in a mass murder-suicide at a Manhattan restaurant. Three years later, he spends his days ingesting himself to demise whereas claiming to work along with his girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) at her video rental retailer. He contemplates suicide, however earlier than something might be determined he’s attacked by a bunch of thugs. However, assist comes within the type of Parry (Williams) a delusion homeless man on a quest to seek out the Holy Grail hidden someplace in New York City. While Jack is reluctant to assist him in his search, he in the end grows near Parry after discovering his spouse died in the identical mass taking pictures he unintentionally provoked, with the paranormal quest to seek out the Holy Grail turning right into a extra tangible quest to redeem his personal soul from the sins of his former life. From right here on out the Gilliam affect is unavoidable, with the movie’s fantastical tone set towards the backdrop of company America becoming neatly into his decades-long fascination with the unusual and surreal. It’s a cocktail solely Gilliam may combine to perfection, and the result’s probably the most underrated movie of his profession.

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But regardless of Jack’s transition from egotistical blowhard to loving good friend forming the crux of The Fisher King’s narrative, Parry is the true star of the movie. He’s a fancy determine, and one who may have viewers rethinking their opinion of him the longer they spend in his firm. On the one hand his slapstick mannerisms and chivalrous demeanor would make him a great supporting character in Gilliam’s personal Jabberwocky or Monty Python and the Holy Grail, however that is merely a canopy for a much more tortured and damaged soul. We be taught that Parry is nothing greater than a coping mechanism for one Henry Sagan, a trainer at Hunter College who suffered a psychological breakdown after witnessing his spouse being murdered proper in entrance of his eyes. Upon awakening from a catatonic state the person often called Henry Sagan was no extra, having undergone a Don Quixote-esc transformation (one other Gilliam obsession) that leaves his earlier life as nothing however a half-remembered nightmare, represented by the mythological Red Knight who stalks the darkest corners of his thoughts (the pink representing the blood of his spouse as she’s graphically shot to demise). The seriousness of the encompassing material solely amplifies the tragedy of his character, with Parry laughing himself deeper right into a pit of torment with each passing day. He’s concurrently one of the hilarious and devasting characters in all of cinema, and somebody no viewer will overlook in a rush.

But as good as Gilliam’s course and Richard LaGravenese’s writing is, there’s no query that Williams is the true expertise behind Parry. The resolution to forged him within the position is nothing wanting genius, and permits Williams to showcase each his comedic and dramatic abilities with a personality who continuously requires each. A lesser efficiency would have turned Parry right into a dim-witted clown too foolish to elicit any real reactions from the viewers, or would have struggled to steadiness such conflicting feelings that may have resulted in the entire movie crumbling below the delicate weight of its most necessary character, however Williams avoids each. Despite what first impressions might recommend, Parry is a deeply nuanced character whose true nature is barely regularly uncovered over the course of the movie. The excitability with which Williams performs him (outlandish even by his requirements) progressively shimmers down as Jack helps to reintegrate Parry into common society, revealing fragments of the person hidden behind the façade. There’s a subtlety to his efficiency that may solely be appreciated looking back, with Williams drifting from one persona to the following with such ease it may be onerous to inform the place Parry stops and Henry Sagan begins. It’s a wonderful demonstration of conveying the complexities of psychological well being with out boiling issues right down to loud and apparent stereotypes, a sense solely strengthened by Williams having undergone such struggles in his non-public life.

The bulk of The Fisher King sees Jack making an attempt to save lots of Parry from the fictional world he has trapped himself in, partly for his personal egocentric want to really feel necessary once more after three years spent out of the limelight, but additionally as a result of guilt he feels for inflicting Parry’s breakdown. He goes about this by serving to Parry organize a date with Lydia (Amanda Plummer), a girl he’s passionate about however is simply too nervous to even take into account talking to. His fixation together with her has lengthy since crossed the road from romantic to creepy (Parry having memorized her day by day routine higher than she has), however the heightened sense of actuality that Gilliam imbues his model of New York with negates any sinister undertones, with the complete plotline evoking reminiscences of a classical Hollywood romance the place characters go from strangers to soulmates in a matter of seconds.

The movie’s best second comes throughout one such try and court docket her in Grand Central Station, with the Main Concourse turning into the scene of a two-hundred-person ballroom dance because the fantastical world of Parry bleeds over into actuality. It’s a sequence that’s nothing wanting magical, and watching the bustling mass of New York’s commuters instantly partake in an extravagant musical quantity stands as one of the mesmerizing moments of Gilliam’s illustrious profession. It’s additionally a uncommon second of pure unadulterated pleasure in a movie that spends most of its time exploring the darker sides of the human psyche. Despite the comedic nature of The Fisher King, nearly all of its jokes come on the expense of both Parry or one other of New York’s unlucky inhabitants as they battle their means by means of day by day life, creating a novel tone that may have audiences laughing one minute solely to have them really feel unhealthy about it the following. It’s symbolic of our innate want to seek out levity in even probably the most turbulent of conditions (laughter being one of many essential issues that defines us as human beings), and a continuing reminder that our capacity to chortle within the face of adversity is commonly our best weapon to render such obstacles powerless. Williams’s efficiency captures this flawlessly, and whereas he spends a lot of the movie making an attempt to flee the shadow of his earlier life, the sense of aid each he and the viewers feels throughout this sequence as he lastly remembers what it’s prefer to be blissful is overwhelming.

But Williams excels even throughout the movie’s quieter moments. The scene the place Parry and Lydia lastly attend their lengthy overdue date (accompanied by Jack and Anne, after all) is the movie’s most elementary sequence, however that doesn’t cease Gilliam from making it any much less enchanting. He shoots the scene nearly fully from a static grasp shot, breaking solely to indicate Jack and Anne’s reactions that develop from bewildered to enraptured as they notice what a superb match they’re (“they were made for each other”, feedback Anne whereas the lovesick couple performs soccer with a chunk of leftover meals). Williams is a pleasure to observe, and seeing the nervousness of his character regularly peel away till he’s tenderly singing “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” prefer it was written particularly for his date is romantic filmmaking at its best.

It’s within the aftermath of this scene that Parry retreats into his catatonic state, his brush with stability proving an excessive amount of for his thoughts to deal with. The second when the Red Knight erupts from out of the night time, fireplace bursting from behind its helmet whereas Parry begs to be allowed this one easy kindness, feels extra becoming for a horror movie than a rom-com, nevertheless it serves as a sudden (if undesirable) reminder that The Fisher King was by no means the light-hearted romp it spends a lot of its time pretending to be. Watching Parry burst into tears as he (fairly actually) is unable to run from his demons is devastating to observe, and the abrupt shift in Williams’s efficiency sells the scene in a means few actors may. Thankfully Gilliam isn’t one to finish issues on too bitter of a observe, and because of Jack retrieving the fabled Holy Grail from the home of a well-known architect (who Jack saves from a failed suicide try, thus redeeming his personal character within the course of), Parry lastly emerges as soon as once more. Except this time, Parry is not any extra. It might have taken three years, however Henry Sagan has lastly awoken from his slumber, prepared to maneuver ahead along with his life quite than eternally reliving a single second from his previous. The realization that he’s allowed to like once more whereas nonetheless cherishing every part he had along with his deceased spouse is a robust assertion about an extremely delicate topic, and one which Gilliam and firm deal with with the maturity it deserves.

How we understand artwork is a wierd factor. The Fisher King is the very same movie that it was when it premiered in 1991, however that was thirty-one years in the past, and William’s passing in 2014 means nobody will probably be viewing this movie by means of the identical lens as somebody three a long time in the past. In retrospect, the prospect of watching a movie about an eccentric caricature who makes use of the masks of comedy to disguise his personal struggles with psychological well being might hit a bit near residence in gentle of every part we now find out about Williams, nevertheless it’s additionally a revealing perception right into a topic that continues to be woefully underrepresented even in spite of everything these years. The optimistic observe that Gilliam ends issues on feels just like the fortunately ever after that Williams by no means acquired, making its remaining act a hopeful and vital reminder to everybody watching that issues can (and can) get higher. In 1991 The Fisher King was already Williams’s finest efficiency due to its suave union of his comedic and dramatic expertise, however now there isn’t a query it’s also his most heartbreaking. Parry is arguably probably the most autobiographical character Williams ever performed, and whereas he serves as a tragic reminder that cinema won’t ever be the identical with out him, he additionally acts as the best piece of comfort for individuals who can relate to his struggles.



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