Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams: a celebration of his career...

Yes, we live in a world where information is at our fingertips.  We are constantly being informed, and quite frankly we don't have to wait at all to find the answers to the questions we have.  As soon as we think of the question, we can Google the answer.  This is almost even more true with regards to celebrities.  We can find out anything we want about their lives with the click of a button, and people have made it their profession to uncover every tidbit and make it readily available.  But, as I mentioned just a few months ago when Philip Seymour Hoffman died, is this really a good thing?  Do we need to start examining Robin Williams' depression just a few hours after his body is found?  I don't think now is the time for that.  Awareness of the disease that is depression; yes.  Let's do that, but do we really need to try and examine the sadness that had overtaken the man so soon?  I don't think so.

I hate you TMZ.

Let's celebrate his career instead.  I know that I already posted a little tribute to my memories of the man, and the impact he had on my childhood, but I have been enjoying all of these posts by my fellow bloggers highlighting their favorite moments and performances by this legend, and so I wanted to chime in with my personal five favorite Williams' film performances.

I'm not going to rank these, but merely list them chronologically and explain why I love them so much.

The World According to Garp
Knowing that this was Robin Williams' feature film debut makes this performance all the more sensational, but first or last, the maturity and complete understanding of his natural charisma and the need for balance is so sharp here it's undeniably the work of a master.  Before this film, he was known for guest work on well known television programs, and of course his own show, Mork and Mindy.  For anyone familiar with his outlandish persona, this performance will come as a shock.  He has this marvelously subdued naturalism that helps create a man we can honestly relate to, and as we take this journey alongside him, Williams' continually invites us to walk with him, discover with him and grow with him.  Yes, he has that quirky, anxious charisma, but he balances it with a real progression of character and uses it sparingly, only when necessary, only when it benefits the character and the story being told.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Mere moments after I published my personal 1993 Fisti Awards, I noticed that I did not list Williams' for this performance in my Top Twelve Lead Actors.  In retrospect, he'd probably make my Top Five.  The more I reflect on this performance, the more I'm convinced it may possibly be his finest ever put to film.  Here is why.  For as over-the-top and hilariously gimmicky Mrs. Doubtfire is, with all the makeup and physical gags and voices and whatnot, Daniel Hillard is NOT.  Whenever that mask is off, and we are just watching Hillard the man, we are watching a normal father.  Sure, he's fun loving and a little crazy, but he's not a gimmick.  He's a real man, and those closing moments, when his secret is exposed, is so heartbreaking, so sincere.  That court scene.  UGH.  Double UGH.  He NAILS it.  Brave barely covers how incredible this performance is.

The Birdcage
Yes, Nathan Lane kind of walks away with this whole movie, but Williams' is such an incredible pillar of support for Lane that you can't appreciate one without this other, and this is one of those instances where Williams' incredible gift for theatrical comedy is best used and exploited.  He fills the screen with such incredible poise, always controlling his comedic gifts with the right amount of nuance to make his character feel grounded and honest.  While Lane is flailing about and causing a scene, Williams' is observing with such slick comedic timing.  He could have easily ripped the rug right out from under Lane and stolen every scene, but he knew how to steal our attention without overdoing a single thing.

Good Will Hunting
I'll be honest; I don't like this movie much.  In fact, I've always found it rather dumb and cliched.  I've also always been hard on Williams and his Oscar win here.  It felt like the Oscar mold of 'comedic actor goes drama to snag a statuette' and maybe it was my cold shoulder to his other Oscar nominated performances (which seemed to follow a similar mold) that caused me to disregard this particular performance for so long, but I was moved by all the snapshots and video clips posted all night long of this performance to actually watch the film again today, and while I still find so many faults within the script, I have been completely won over by Williams and his tremendous performance here.  That bench scene alone is so incredibly lived in and honest, so tender and poignant and Williams' completely sells every single word.  It's no wonder that the famous bench is becoming a memorial of sorts.

One Hour Photo
Remember 2002?  It was the year when Robin Williams decided he was going to prove to the world he was not a one trick pony.  Sure, he had already done dramatic works before, and he had already won an Oscar, but he had always been able to pepper his trademark humor into his film choices.  In 2002 though, that changed, when he took on his two darkest characters.  For me, it was his performance in One Hour Photo that made the biggest impact.  This was such a tricky performance, because Williams' had to ride that fence of deranged/scary and sympathetic/damaged.  He rode it, and produced a performance that left me with chills.  This is the most un-Robin Williams' performance of all of Robin Williams' performances, and as such is a truly incredible feat.


  1. That is great. These are among the many reasons why I love Robin Williams and why he will be missed.

  2. I'm not a huge Good Will Hunting fan myself, but i LOVE The Birdcage. I actually think both Nathan and Robin take that movie (along with Hank Azaria). The monologue that begins with "Yes, I wear foundation..." touches my heart

    1. It's weird to think that The Birdcage is a truly underrated comedy, but it is. It's such a wonderful film.

      I don't like Good Will Hunting as a film, for I find it horribly flawed, but the performances by the entire cast are outstanding. They really sell their material, and deserve props for making it all work despite those terrible scripting choices.

  3. Garp unseen, I LOVE these performances. So glad his performance in GWH finally won you over. It might be my favorite Williams performance, though I agree he's wonderful in Mrs. Doubtfire, One Hour Photo, and The Birdcage. He was in the running for all 3 of those performances, but I've only managed to nominate him for GWH and Insomnia. Though, I'd love to give him a win somewhere if possible.

    1. I actually think that Doubtfire may be my favorite, with Garp in second. I'm really ticked at myself for not nominating him in 93, even though I really do love my lineup.

      I hope you adore Garp as much as I do. Such a beautiful film, and both Williams and Close are outstanding in it.

  4. These are great and I had a homage to him as well. My favs are also Insomnia, What Dreams May Come and The Fisher King

    1. He was really good in Insomnia and essential to The Fisher King, although I've always thought that it was Bridges who grounded that movie.