These past few weeks have taught me that I love Robin Williams movies, and he’s an immeasurable loss. They’ve also told me that watching 10 of his movies in a row is A LOT to take in. Here’s part three of my Robin Williams movie marathon.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
I remember watching this movie in school, and not having seen it since. After watching it last week I can now remember why. In essence, the idea behind this story could make for a compelling film – the afterlife, heaven/hell, spirituality, existentialism, it’s potentially intense stuff. Even the appearance of him being in his wife’s painting is a good idea.
Unfortunately they’re all incomplete, as the story quickly stops making sense after Williams character dies. He meets his two white kids in the afterlife, except one of them has become an Asian air hostess and his son has become freaking CUBA GOODING JUNIOR. It makes no sense. The saddest thing of all is Williams’ characters vain attempts to save his wife after she ends up in what is essentially hell for committing suicide. In a way the self-inflicted death and darkness of an insanely depressed character is really well portrayed, but then you remember that Williams chose to do the same to himself and then you get a bit sad – but it’s ok. The movie quickly turns back to rubbish afterwards, while turning from a family film into something much darker. Appalling nonsensical semi-theological garbage that tries to be a lot more and falls very, very short. 3/10
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
Believe it or not, I’d NEVER seen this movie before, and I’m not sure why – it’s been around long enough. Williams plays a radio DJ, brought in to help with troop morale during the Vietnam conflict. He brings a madness to the microphone that people love but pisses off his superiors. He falls in love with a local girl who has a protective brother and slowly ingrains himself into the Vietnamese community they’re a part of. There are so many moments where it’s just classic Williams, riffing his brains out much to the amusement of his co-stars. You can tell when Forest Whitaker is laughing in those scenes it’s not pretend, Williams is genuinely entertaining everyone in the room with him.
Of course there’s a story to get on with too. The protective brother turns out to be a VC member (although he did ensure Williams was out of a place just before they blew it up) just when you start liking him and understanding what the hell he’s saying. Bombs go off and people die and then the movie starts asking the serious question of who the actual ‘bad guy’ or invading force was during the conflict, and Williams wonders if it’s all worth it. The scene where he actually gets to meet some troops who absolutely love him helps him understand exactly what his presence means to these people – listening to the radio gives them an escape from the horrible situation they’ve ended up in for following orders.
The performances are solid, the use of actual Vietnamese actors works despite the fact that they’re difficult to understand at times, the story is solid, but also careful not to become a blatant anti-war sentiment. Like so many Williams films it’s funny, heartfelt and worth watching 8/10
While the previously reviewed ‘Death To Smoochy’ certain cast Williams character as a ‘villain’, he redeems himself at the end. What we have in Insomnia is one of Williams creepiest performances. That being said though, Williams certainly plays the ‘supporting’ role in this film behind an incredible Al Pacino performances as the professional policeman who’s slowly getting insane and paranoid. Of course this gets worse with the fact that it never gets dark in the part of Alaska in which the film is located – and it’s actually quite a nice effect on the film. In most movies you know when it’s night, you know when it’s day, you know when it’s the day after – but not in this, and not in Alaska.
Pacino is on the trail of Williams when his sleep deprivation and an intense mist cause him to shoot his own partner. The only person who saw and knows the truth? The murderer Williams. What follows is a psychological cat and mouse game played at surprisingly close quarters, with Williams character constantly calling and even meeting up with Pacino’s detective. The two have an eerie on-screen chemistry, (although they’ve worked together before) which makes their mutually disturbed relationship somewhat believable.
The subject matter of guilt, intent and human nature are intertwined compellingly. Pacino struggling to block out the light is almost a parallel for his denial of the truth surrounding the death of his partner. Only when he dies at the very end can he truly move on from the things he caused – which makes you wonder if we’re all going to hold onto the things we’re guilty about until die (that is, if we decide not to share them with anyone anyway).
The calm nature of Williams’ psychopath is somewhat unnerving, to the point where you forget that he developed a relationship with and then beat a 15 year old girl to death. Christopher Nolan has made a living out of darkness and well shot/produced films that are as much about the feel of the shot than the characters or dialogue. This film is no exception. 8.5/10
I’ve only got one movie on the list that I still intend on seeing – although I know there are so many more. Perhaps I’ll get to them sometime. We’ll just have to see.