Lowdown: A radio presenter who inspired a mass shooting event seeks redemption by helping one of its victims.
Like probably everyone else out there whose age is measured in two digits, I was touched by Robin Williams. True, Williams was never a favourite, and Mrs Doubtfire never managed to do anything but bore me, but still – between Aladdin’s Genie and seizures of the day, I got caught. Like everybody, I felt a loss upon hearing of Williams’ tragic premature death, a loss that is best addressed through celebrating his work.
Thus the first Williams movie we put our minds to was 1991’s The Fisher King. An odd movie to start with, but then again odd fits the occasion.
Jack (Jeff Bridges) is a New York radio host of the kind popular with the Liberal Party. The kind that mocks his audience and badmouths everything in that truly Young Liberal selfish kind of a way. Problem is, it turns out that one such honest piece of advice inspired a guy to take a shotgun with him to a restaurant and go Grand Theft Auto upon its inhabitants.
Fast forward two years later, and Jack’s a helpless nobody, relying and abusing the favours of Anne (Mercedes Ruehl). It’s unclear what Anne sees in Jack, but it is clear Anne is desperate for a loving man by her side. For some reason or another she thinks Jack might be him.
In between torments and alcohol, Jack bumps into a street bum that saves him from nasty vigilantes, Parry (Williams). Through this and that, it occurs to Jack that Parry used to be a someone once upon a time, someone with love in his life, until that love was blown away from him by that very same shotgun Jack has inspired. And all of a sudden, Jack has a way of redeeming himself: helping Parry. Specifically, helping him with the girl he keeps dreaming of in his deranged way, Lydia (Amanda Plummer).
Thus the scene is set for four tormented souls to recover/redeem themselves from mistakes caused by Liberal Party ideology. Naturally, the remedy to problems caused by Liberal Party ideology are all to do with opposite values: compassion, understanding, friendliness, being there for one another, and of course – love. Fisher King takes four people who, for one reason or another, lost all trust in humanity on a trip to regain it by putting their trust in one another.
The core problem with The Fisher King is that it’s a Terry Gilliam film. That is, it’s eccentric to the point of me often wondering aloud (yes, aloud): “why am I still watching this?” There’s just too much crazy in this movie, detracting from its core message.
Luckily, there are plenty of positives to compensate and then some. Aside of the overall feel good message of redemption, at the core of it The Fisher King is a summit meeting of four excellent actors doing an excellent collaboration work. Personally, I would firmly point at Ruehl as the top performer here: just as she did in Last Action Hero, she steals the show with her relatively brief performance.
Then there is the city of New York playing in the background. The Fisher King does not compliment that city, but I do think it well captures the look and the feel of the period. Not bad, as far as achievements go.
Memorable scene: A nude Williams takes Bridges out for a night at Central Park in your typical Gilliam crazy scene.
Overall: A bit of a mixed bag that’s won by its acting brigade. 3 out of 5 crabs.