Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Retro Movie Review: The Fisher King (1991) #RobinWilliams

The Fisher King
1991
Cast: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Rheul, Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter 
Genre: Fantasy drama
Estimated Lifetime Gross: $41,895,491 

Plot: After shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) inadvertently provokes a caller into murdering a group of innocent people in a Manhattan bar, he grows depressed and turns to booze. As he's about to hit rock bottom, Jack meets a homeless man named Parry (Robin Williams), whose wife was killed by the caller Jack pushed to the brink. Mentally scarred by his loss, Parry spends his days searching for the Holy Grail. Lucas feeling culpable for the poor man's plight, pledges to help him in his quest

*This review may contain spoilers*








'Exceptional Dramatic Performance by Robin That Was Overlooked By Many'

The Fisher King is one of those movies where for all of its surreal and at times flashy imagery, lies a tale of two strangers coming together against evil, putting aside their difficult and dark pasts and really trying to make efforts in moving forward in their lives. 

It has been misinterpreted as a comedy because this film is anything but that. Although it does have some light moments in it. 

Robin Williams as Parry was an extraordinary presence throughout the duration of this film: as his character, I felt his pain, his anguish, his turmoil, his sadness but also he had heart, he always tried to do the right thing. He was a good guy, who had a great career (was previously a teacher), great and happy life, but after experiencing the horrific murder of his wife by a crazed gunman, who eventually turns out to be one of Jack's listeners and of whom he kills himself during a live phone-in, things take a turn for the worse for Parry, with the incident evoking strong and horrible feelings and memories of her death. The performance and the manner of that performance walks a fine line between humour and drama that is played out with such conviction and emotion. With Robin Williams's performance as this character, you know, people can continue talking about whether he was sad and depressed in real life at the time of the making of this film, and whether or not this role of his had reinforced that. But this review focuses solely on his performance and his role, and that performance as Parry was just exceptional and also extraordinary. 


Also, is it just me, or is this film so undervalued and under and de-appreciated in terms of Robin Williams's dramatic work? He should have got an Oscar nod, and yet he got snubbed. I mean, for most people and critics, it is always the one, two, three of Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. Always. But unfortunately, it's movies such as The Fisher King that mainstream Hollywood always turn their noses up at. People just don't get this movie and what Terry Gilliam was trying to accomplish with it. There are still people to this day who don't get this movie, though whilst the plot and story can be a little complicated and taxing to understand, it's when you watch the movie and stick through it, you see what is happening, why it is happening and why the characters feel the emotions that they do. 





British Director Terry Gilliam, who is most well known to audiences for comedic fare, Monty Python carves out a visually expressive, eerie and at times, hauntingly atmospheric tale culminating in the lives of 4 people: Jack, Jack's girlfriend, Anne (played brilliantly by Mercedes Ruehl), Parry and Lydia, the woman of whom Parry has a crush on. The film centres on Parry's search for the Holy Grail & according to God and some other people that Jack is the chosen one and the only person who can save Parry from the Red Knight, but beneath all that lies a story about redemption, forgiveness, about figuring out what is more important in life after experiencing a tragic situation, and of hope. There are some interesting scenes involving Jack and Anne, as they bicker, argue, fight, break-up.... only to kiss and make up in the end. 

Even though the film has received huge praise for Williams's portrayal, Jeff Bridges as Jack isn't too far off either, in fact, he was fantastic too: his irresponsibility, arrogance, cockiness, his whole off-putting demeanour is suddenly gone, as he questions his own values and morals and that his own behaviour is not just having a negative effect on his listeners, but also on the people he loves most, in particular, Anne. But the effect of Jack's attitude and behaviour becomes, even more, earth shattering and pain-inducing for Parry, who is constantly having to live with these horrible memories that he is unable to shake off.  

The film not only excels in terms of the cast performances; additionally it has a whimsical, offbeat and at times mystifying fantasy approach towards contemporary themes that strike a chord & give the film that extra edge it needs. This is an interesting take on how people deal with and react to tragic situations from the past life, and how with Jack and Parry - and but more so Parry it can get all too overwhelming.... and even bordering on destructive. 

One of the highlights of The Fisher King for me doesn't involve Robin Williams per se, but funnily enough by Michael Jeter, whose character was in drag, and for no apparent reason burst into song. If that doesn't make you smile whilst watching this film, then I'd give up. 


The appearance of the Red Knight acts as a metaphor for Parry's fears and of his own mental and emotional state, but also it evokes the trauma of his wife being murdered in front of his very eyes that occurred a year or couple of years ago. & it is the trauma he had to live with all this time. It is only by confronting and defeating the Red Knight, that Parry would be rid of these demons; a task of which he struggles with, as he wrestles with his emotions. 







Director Terry Gilliam made this quote in 2014 to the Hollywood Reporter about Robin, where he says: 
''Hollywood had probably been very cynical that his stuff wasn't working, but the world loved him.... and that was because he was so utterly unique'' 

He was right and to this day, reading this quote he is still right, because despite some of the motion picture misfires he has made, as an actor and performer, even with Good Morning, Vietnam, the Hollywood movie industry still looked down on him and didn't take him seriously. With roles as varied and captivating as Parry, Adrian Cronauer, John Keating and Sean Maguire, Robin Williams proved what a Tour-De-Force he was as a dramatic actor. He had one not so good decade: the 2000s and beyond - okay, make that 2 decades, but the 1990s, boy Robin Williams was flying and busy as a bee, and he starred in some wonderful efforts such as this one.   

The Fisher King's aesthetic appearance is very colourful and vibrant at times, but also abnormal, but in a good way that is, and yet its impressive visuals mask the film's psychological and emotional impact that is all the more real, forceful, sad, but also poignant and hopeful too. And though the religious sentiments go over my head, this is still a great mishmash of contemporary plotlines and situations with traditional medieval themes; throw in great characters and excellent performances, and what you have is a very surreal and innovative drama that is unique in so many ways. 



Summary


Pros +

- Outstanding performances throughout 
- Visually impressive and wonderfully crafted film 
- The singing man in drag
- Some really out of this world - yet emotional flashback moments 
- Great blend of contemporary plot-lines and situations with medieval themes
- Powerful at times - yet engrossing narrative 


Cons -

- Underrated and still criminally overlooked to this day 
- When it becomes too dark and the flashback scene where Parry's wife is murdered, it can be disturbing for some viewers 



Final Verdict:

Robin Williams was practically robbed of an Oscar for Good Morning, Vietnam, and here too he was robbed of one for this film as well (although thankfully he made amends with the Golden Globe triumph). The Fisher King has to be seen to be believed and given it is still overlooked in favour of his other dramatic endeavours, which are just as excellent, is criminal. It is a highly moving, engrossing, visually atmospheric, and at times powerful and haunting movie that really delivers.

Robin isn't just wonderful as Adrian Cronauer, John Keating, Sean Maguire - you need to add Parry to this list as well. 

You feel for all the main characters involved and you want them to succeed and be happy in the end, and when they do, it is even more satisfying. 

One of Terry Gilliam's best ever efforts, but also one of Robin Williams's finest and exceptional performances and movies to boot too. 



Overall:






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