Critic Reviews



Based on 18 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
After seeing Awakenings, I read it, to know more about what happened in that Bronx hospital. What both the movie and the book convey is the immense courage of the patients and the profound experience of their doctors, as in a small way they reexperienced what it means to be born, to open your eyes and discover to your astonishment that "you" are alive.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Awakenings, directed by Penny Marshall, is a curiously engaging, genuinely haunting movie that rises above some dubious handicapped jokes and strange casting decisions to be truly special. [11 Jan 1991, p.5]
Wall Street Journal
The director Penny Marshall has gone straight to the heart of this complex story and made a powerfully poignant and illuminating film. She doesn't hesitate to push for the grand sentimental moment, but balances the teary stuff with restraint and humor. To be sure, Awakenings seems calculated to induce weeping -- and it does, without making the weeper feel cheap. [20 Dec 1990, p.A14]
San Francisco Chronicle
Awakenings is a troubling film, but it's also a courageous one that dares to tackle a difficult subject with sensitivity and honesty. [20 Dec 1990, p.E1]
Boston Globe
Director Penny Marshall's choreography encompasses emotional as well as physical ebbs and flows. Awakenings lives up to its title. [11 Jan 1991]
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Marshall elicits performances from Williams and De Niro that are exceptional. Awakenings is a small, simple movie about a large, complex issue, the waste of human opportunity. [19 Dec 1990, p.C1]
And so even if you're held (as I was) by the acting, you may find yourself fighting the film's design. It reflects a certain lack of faith in your audience to take a performance as authentic as De Niro's and reduce it to the level of a glorified reach-out-and-touch-someone commercial.
The script pushes all the expected buttons at all the expected moments, leaving you wondering what could have been achieved with a more rigorous, unsentimental approach.
Plucks at the heart-strings in a far too push-button way.
USA Today
De Niro's widely praised performance is like the rest of the film: competent, a product of hard work and borderline mechanical. I like much of Awakenings, including several supporting performances - but like Big, it left me just a little cold. [20 Dec 1990, p.5D]
Chicago Tribune
Awakenings is a film that unquestionably succeeds on its own terms, though those terms are deeply suspect. It is a canny piece of false art, one that consistently swaps meaning for superficial effect. [20 Dec 1990, p.1]

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