The Fisher King (1991): A Surrealist Fantasy Romance of Healing

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Terry Gilliam is a director whose style has slowly grown on me over time. My introduction to him was through a friend when he showed me “Brazil” a movie that now since I have a great appreciation for his style and storytelling, plan on seeing (and this time reviewing) again.

This is also a film starring two of my favorite actors. Jeff Bridges who is the master of drama and playing a wide array of roles, and Robin Williams…who I’ll be honoring in more of my reviews. He really needs no introduction and in this movie he captures both the manic humor and the intense loss and drama beautifully. I will get into the details in the assessment.

“The Fisher King” was directed by Terry Gilliam and was written by Richard LaGravenese.

The story revolves around Jack (Jeff Bridges) who is a shock jock on the radio who inspires a man to do a mass killing. After a falling off the map for a while Jack is pulled back into the world through his interactions with Parry (Robin Williams) a man who has created a fantasy world to deal with the fact that his wife was killed by the man Jack inspired. From here story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – There are a lot of great visuals in this movie. From the Red Knight who is Jack and Perry’s demons given form, to the boiler room that Parry is living in where he talks to the little people. The world feels gritty and fantastical and it is here the good as, as everytime it goes real world (mostly corporate) you see how people don’t care and how everything is metaphorically dead in how black and bare everything is. The visuals of the Red Knight as a devil figure are amazing too. The knight is large, breathes fire and has a horse that does the same. The killer also makes an appearance too, both in the flashback, in Jack’s mind when he is getting the Grail and his agent is made to look like the killer.

The Writing – LaGravenese did a great job writing this. He captures the characters so starkly. Each of them feels real and none of them are prefect. They are all contradictions in their own ways (the selfish and selflessness of all of them at different parts). Which makes it really enjoyable to listen to as well as watch.

The Symbolism – The symbolism is in the story of the title. The Fisher King is a grail legend with a few variations. The one that Parry tells in the film is of a King who was asked to protect the grail. He is than wounded by the sin of pride and he says he is thirsty. When the Fool gives him his cup he realizes it is the grail and that none of his heroes could find it, but the fool only gave it to him because he was thirsty. This applies mostly to Jack whose pride blinds him from Anne’s and Parry’s love which allow him to heal and get out of the environment that fed his selfish instincts. He learns to let go of pride and Parry is the fool who gives him the water from the grail.

This is also in how a child gives him a Pinocchio doll and how both he and Parry becomes real people over the course of the film and beyond the doll state of their selfishness (Jack) and denial (Parry).

The Characters

Parry – Robin Williams is fantastic in this role. Parry is a man who has created a fantasy world (he is a Knight seeking the Holy Grail for the Little People and God) to live with the loss of his wife and her murder right before his eyes. You get glimpses of that night when he is beginning to find happiness and the demons in the form of the Red Knight return. He also became broken as he stalks a women and never really faces the actions from that since she falls in love and is flattered by everything he knows about her (What?). His arc is still really good though, and he never is able to deal with his past identity but he is able to finally morn what happened that night when he experiences it as a dream after Jeff gets the Holy Grail for him.

Jack – Jeff Bridges does an amazing job as the man seeking redemption. He knows that his selfishness and looking down on others inspired a monster, so doesn’t allow himself to feel love or connection to anyone. It takes Parry saving his life in order for him to begin to change, and it takes the loss of Parry (when Parry gets attacked by his demons, thugs and goes catatonic) that he is finally able to admit his love for his girlfriend Anne and leaving the industry after he breaks into a millionaires castle to steal a grail for Perry.

Anne – Mercedes Ruehl plays the only character who holds Jack accountable, and she does a good job. I wish we’d seen more of the reasons that she loves Jack though, considering he does take her for granted in most of the scenes until the end (with exceptions here and there). She is the one who supports him with Parry getting together with Lydia.

Lydia – Lydia is awkward and clumsy, much like Parry. They also are very alone and don’t know how to connect with people. It takes Anne and Jack to help them do so. Lydia learns that she can have a mean personality and is able to face her inadequacy of fear of being used by Jack and ends up taking care of him when he goes catatonic. She is a great character who could have only been a plot device. Thank God, she was not and actually grew over the course of the movie. Her sparring with Lydia was fantastic as she is pretty cheap and Lydia is a business owner. She was played by Amanda Plummer.

The Homeless Cabaret Singer – This is a bit part that is played by Michael Jeter, and he does great. He sings a song for Lydia for her to pick up her reward at Anne’s movie shop as part Jack and her’s plot to hook her up with Parry and it is his heart and soul that help open Jack up. Jeter is wonderful in this role and I wish he’d gotten more scenes.

John De Lancie – He appears as a corporate big wig wanting to make tv show mocking the homeless as them living in a fantasy world, which is the final straw that wakes Jack up. He is good at playing the selfish git in the few scenes he has.

Cons: Parry’s Stalking of Lydia – I don’t get why this wasn’t shown to be a bad thing in the film. I get that Parry’s gone through trauma but that doesn’t justify stalking, nothing does. i wish Gilliam and shown this is bad rather than rewarding it by her seeing that as love. What is this “Twilight?”

Would I recommend this film? Yes, it makes me want to see more Terry Gilliam and is a favorite. Minus the fact that Parry’s stalking of Lydia is never seen as bad, he is good at helping people see the good in themselves and his fantasy world and visions enrich the film as his and Jack’s demons are given form in the forever stalking Red Knight. I highly recommend this film.

Final Score is 9 / 10

 

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Hook (1991): The Joy of a Child, the Importance of Love and Honoring Robin Williams

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“To live, to live would be an awfully big adventure.” -Peter Banning

“Hook” has been one of my favorite films for a very long time. It is also a film I have not watched for some time, but with Robin Williams’s suicide, watching one of my favorite Robin Williams films seemed in order.

Robin Williams has been one of my favorite actors for a very long time, and throughout my childhood and teenage years…it was a lot his classic movies that I would always go back and watch again. He was one of those few actors who could do both drama and comedy so well and who usually always chose projects that had a point. Robin Williams was such a huge part of my life in his art for such a long time was an inspiration. He was timeless in his acting and characters, and we were lucky to have him for what time we had. There is more that I will say later on and in future blog posts.

I chose “Hook” because Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories. It’s one of the stories I always go back too because of how timeless the characters are, how powerful the messages within it still stand and the creativity of the world of Neverland. They’ve informed many of the stories I’ve done.

The story of “Hook” begins with Peter Banning (grown up Peter Pan played by Robin Williams) who works at a law firm in mergers in aquisitions. He has no connection with any of his family and is also about deals and business. He is pulled into his past when Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) takes children when he is doing an event for Grandma Wendy (Maggie Smith) (the woman who helped him find parents in America) after Wendy reveals who he is he has a mental breakdown and isolates himself more. Once Tinker Bell (Julie Roberts) arrives she takes him back to Neverland, where the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The cinematography – It is Spielberg and he knows how to paint a beautiful picture. Neverland especially looks like it is out of dream. He uses shadows really well too, which is a nice callback to Peter’s literal and figurative shadow throughout the film.

The writing – I actually really enjoyed the script. It had great lawyer jokes, a gynecologist joke and lots of situational humor surrounding Peter and Captain Hook.

Neverland – The Neverland is pretty cool. It has a world full of different seasons in one place, the Lost Boys, the Pirate Ship which is a city, the mermaids who save Peter when he is pushed off the plank. So we see a lot of the location.

Grandma Wendy – Grandma Wendy is an amazing character. Casting Maggie Smith as Wendy was a perfect choice. She is the one who is still empathetic and remembers the magic. We also see her current love as a parent and her past love for Peter as a lover in certain scenes…their history together is so rich and she pulls it off really well and well as pushing Peter to action to save his children and believe the story of his past.

Moira Banning – Peter’s wife is also a reminder of who once was…she is the one who cares and sees his disconnect from his family. She is also the only one Peter treats like a human being when he is all about work. The love between them is believable, though there first scene is creepy. Don’t kiss a sleeping girl you’ve never met Peter! Caroline Goodall does fantastic.

The Banning Children – The kids are pretty great too. You have the believer in Maggie and Jack who has taken the brunt of Peter’s disconnect and cruelty, so rightly finds a father in James Hook until he realizes how bad the pirates are. They have a good character arc.

Toodles – The lost boy who left is an interesting character. He pretty much functions as a joke and reminder, but it works…especially when we meet the lost boys and hear how much they miss him. He was the one who shouldn’t have left, since that world was his home. He never fully adapted to our world the way Peter did.

The Lost Boys – The Lost Boys are great. They have Pan as a title. Which I liked. The current Pan is Rufio (Dante Basco) and it is up to the Lost Boys to teach Peter how to be a child again. It is a great arc and all of them are fun in the games they play that are used to have imagination as creation…which plays into both meals and weapon creation. Bangarang!

Rufio – Dante Basco is an actor I really respect. Both for this and his work in “Avatar: The Last Airbender” as Prince Zuko. He has the tough anti-hero thing down really well and in this film I wish we’d gotten more backstory or he lived. He was a worthy Pan and nearly defeated Captain Hook as well. His death is all the more powerful because of it. He is the one who fought and best represented the crueler side the Lost Boys experience in Neverland, since many have been killed by Pirates.

Thud Butt – Is the last Pan and the one who leads the Lost Boys in the new Neverland where the pirates are defeated. He is the comedic one because he is so big, but also the one who helps keep Peter on course with training.

Tinker Bell – She is the final reminder of Peter’s past and the one who loves him. She is able to put the romantic love aside too when she knows he has no plan to stay in Neverland. She also is the reason he is alive as Hook planned to kill him once he saw that Peter was no longer Pan but Banning and could not fly. Julia Roberts is great.

Smee – Is comedic relief and is the one behind the capture of the children. He is the brains behind the outfit, where Captain Hook is the one with quick wit and action. Smee is also the nicest of the pirates. He is the heart and soul of the Pirate Ship.

Captain Hook – Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in this role. He is a character who is so cruel and selfish, but so human too. He defeats Rufio, captures Peter’s kids and manages to turn Jack against him and kills the Crocodile. There is a reason that the movie is named for him. His actions drive the plot and bring Peter’s arc full circle. He fights to the end and is only taken down when everyone is fighting him (Lost Boys with clocks, Peter, the Crocodile’s corpse). What will the world be like, without Captain Hook?

Peter Banning / Peter Pan – Robin Williams owns this role. He plays the serious drama as Banning and as Pan so well…from the disconnected father too lost in his work and unable to connect with his family or in Neverland Tinker Bell or the Lost Boys…and as Pan when he finally believes in himself and finds his happy thought in the birth of his children and love of his wife. He finds the joy of the child once more that he once had as Peter, but with the responsibility of age. Robin Williams is a master of drama and comedy and his serious moments and his jokes in this are unforgettable.

Cons: I have to do this alone trope –  “This is something I have to do alone.” When they really defeat Hook all together, was an unnecessary ego thing that happens way too often in movies.

“Hook” is most definitely still a favorite that I plan to watch many more times in the future. The story captures the importance of what we can learn from our childhood and of connection to others…and to live. Robin Williams, we will miss you. Your chemistry with everyone in this film is fantastic and you were the star in the film that is truly timeless for me. Thank you for all your work and being such an amazing inspiration.

 Final Score is 9.4 / 10

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