The Fisher King

Directed By: Terry Gilliam

Starring: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, and Michael Jeter

Like many, I'm revisiting the filmography of Robin Williams as we close out the summer.  With this in mind, I'm sure those of you who follow me have picked up on a pattern.  I'm tackling Williams' more dramatic turns on the big screen.  While I love him as a comedian, it's his comedic charms that make him such a standout in a dramatic setting.  He was able to channel his crazy personality in a way that brought about performances that were both deeply passionate and thoroughly amusing.  I'd argue that the best example of this is Williams's turn as homeless NYC widower Parry in The Fisher King.

Radio show host Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is a slick, fast-talking man whose mouth works faster than his brain.  After some rather insensitive comments from Jack, a troubled caller takes matters into his own hands and shoots up a Manhattan bar, taking the lives of seven innocent individuals in the process.  Devastated by what's happened, Jack steps away from his work as a radio host and moves in with his longtime girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) into the apartment above her video rental store.  This once prominent figure in the world of entertainment wastes away.  For the next three years, he's a drunk, unemployed loser who does nothing but wallow in the shame of another man's crime.  Things change when he meets homeless vagabond Parry (Williams).

Jack gets drunk one night and almost gets burned alive by some thugs when he's rescued by Parry.  Afterward, Jack spends the night with Parry.  During the night, he learns that Parry is on a mission to find the Holy Grail and that this man actually believes it to be in the home of a local billionaire.  No one with half a brain would aid in him this seemingly insane mission, but Jack decides to do so.  During that night, he also learns that Parry once went into a catatonic state and suffered the downward spiral that's led to his current life of squalor.  This was the result of a traumatic event in his life.  That event was witnessing the brutal murder of his wife at the hands of Jack's sadistic caller on that fateful night three years ago.  As a form of personal penitence, Jack decides to enter Parry's wacky world and help him find the Holy Grail.  He also helps him to connect with the girl of his dreams, an equally crazy girl named Lydia (Amanda Plummer).

Aside from 90s-centric tunes like "I've Got the Power", The Fisher King seems like a film written for 2014 rather than 1991.  Mass shootings where psychos strap up and take the lives of innocent people for no good reason are commonplace today.  Just reflect on the Aurora, Newtown, and Navy Yard shootings over the last several years.  Given this, the 23 year-old film seems to be an especially resonant film from Robin Williams's filmography today.  On top of this, I have to give director Terry Gilliam credit for creating a zany world in which the colorful characters his cast portrays can come to life.  There's a magical rhythmicity to The Fisher King.  Under his direction, this fantasy drama seamlessly oscillates between romantic, majestic adventure and dark, penetrating drama.

The actors all deliver impressive performance.  For his part as Jack Lucas, Jeff Bridges gives us one riveting character.  Offering plenty of catchy one-liners and being emblematic of the disconnected society in which we live today, Bridges transitions Lucas into this self-loathing character who drowns his guilt and sorrow with a bottle.  Bridges leads the charge with his tormented performance.  For his part as Parry, Robin Williams gives one zany performance as well.  As this overly passionate janitor of God, Williams gets the perfect opportunity to showcase both his comedic talents and his uncanny ability to bring heartfelt emotion to a scene. With hallucinations of floating little fat people and an invisible Red Knight on horseback, Williams delivers a highly emotional performance that just clicks in The Fisher King.

The ladies in the film do just as well.  For her part s Jack's girlfriend Anne, Mercedes Ruehl gives one saucy performance.  Being the sanest person in the movie and sharing particularly contentious chemistry with both Bridges and Williams, she brings out the best in each of them comically while also managing to deliver some more potent dramatic scenes.  There's a fire in Ruehl's character, and she makes it well known that she could care less about Jesus's juice glass.  For her part as the love of Parry's life Lydia, Amanda Plummer gives the female equivalent of Williams's character.  Bumbling and making a mess wherever she goes, Plummer gives us an odd yet enamoring woman who lacks self-confidence.

The Fisher King is not quite the best film in Williams's filmography, but it features some fiercely entertaining performances from Williams, Bridges, Ruehl, and Plummer.  Terry Gilliam wrangles this impressive cast together and weaves an absurd yet beautiful film somehow full of magical fantasy and piercing drama.  The Fisher King gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.