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A touching yet humorous tale, THE FISHER KING brings together amongst the
best performances given by Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, as well as Terry
Gilliam's finest directorial effort. Solid supporting performances by
Amanda Plummer and Mercedes Ruehl round out a great film that ranks among my
Bridges portrays an arrogant radio shock-jock, who's big mouth and flippant comments send a disturbed listener on a murderous rampage, thus ending his career. Enter Ruehl as his new enabler girlfriend, waiting patiently for him to drag himself up from the dregs, hoping to catch a ride to the top. Just when Bridges seems to have hit rock bottom, he encounters Williams, a crazed vagrant who thinks he is a knight in shining armor.
What ensues is a tale of remorse, redemption and rebirth which is made all the more magical by Gilliam's magnificent vision. Most notable is a scene which takes place in Grand Central Station where the hustle and bustle of the busy commuters dissolves into a spectacular waltz as Williams follows Plummer, the woman of his dreams. Gilliam's style makes Williams delusions come alive as the character makes the slow journey from trauma-induced insanity to stark, yet hopeful, reality.
Every character in this film undergoes a metamorphosis, each learning from the others along the transformation. It is a beautiful film to watch, and an achievement to all involved that subject matter of such depth can come across with such humor and with such beauty.
Terry Gilliam has made a lot of good films and a couple of great ones(namely
Twelve Monkeys and Brazil)this, though could well be his best.
For starters there is the cast.Jeff Bridges,officially the most underrated actor of his generation, giving a performance that veers from one end of the spectrum to the other almost imperceptibly.From comedy to tragedy and back again.
Robin Williams- a great comedian and a better actor than he is given credit for.Fair enough he does tend to go through spells of making films primarily for his kids (Mrs.Doubtfire, Hook, Jack) but when he does decide to buckle down and do a serious role he rarely disappoints (Good Will Hunting, Insomnia, Dead Poets Society).It is with this role though that Williams gives what is the best of his career to date,as Parry. He is undoubtedly insane, but it is not yet too late for him, he justs needs someone to take the effort to save him, and if it had not been for Bridges colossal mistake and subsequent search for redemption, no-one would have done it, and he would never have survived, merely another casualty of another one of Gilliams nightmarish cityscapes. Mercedes Ruehl is perfect as Bridges suffering girlfriend.She thinks of herself as hard-bitten a survivor, and yet she continues to stay with Bridges, trying to prove to herself that she has the strength to change him, to redeem him. She wants to be his saviour, and yet he comes in the shape of a homeless madman, prone to dancing naked in Central Park and seeing floating fairies whilst defecating.The Fisher King is a movie about hope, despair and redemption, and all of the human conditions that fit in between.It contains one of the most inspired,beautiful scenes in recent memory,as Grand Central station transforms from a dingy,noisy concrete hole into a luscious, gorgeous ballroom, simply because of Lydia, Parrys love, the one thing that keeps him grounded in any semblance of reality.The chinese restaurant double- date in which Parry connects with her for the first time is both funny and touching, and makes what comes after even more tragic.
It is at times tragic,brutal even but it's heart cannot be doubted,and it remains a wonderful success.
The movie's plot has been discussed enough, no need to rehash it here. I
just wanted to add a few observations. In my opinion this is one of Robin
Williams' best performances. I know that at the time he was heavily involved
in Comic Releif and this story about mentally ill homeless men and
acceptance of all types of people really fits the PC Comic Releif mentality,
but he really did a great job here, portraying Parry, a man lost in
fantasies of knights and ladies.
Jeff Bridges is very Howard Stern-like as Jack Lucas, the insulated, rude talk show host. In 1991 Stern was still a New York thing, but being that his "fame" has since spread, we see who the character was based on with a little more clarity now.
Michael Jeter as the homeless, depressed former cabaret singer was a delight in every scene he was featured in. His "singing telegram" scene to Lydia in her office was a classic.
Mercedes Ruehl also stood out as sort of living outside this crazy world that Jack Lucas finds himself thrust into. Her home is a haven and scenes shot there are usually scenes of a return to normalcy in the story, a grounding.
David Hyde Pierce has pretty much found his niche as the asexual, slightly fey character. This was basically a toned-down Niles Crane in a hat here.
Amazing movie. Like other Terry Gilliam movies, they unwind like dreams and have the look of otherworldliness. I am sorry that the homeless people arent giddy and uplifting enough for some viewers, but in reality it is a pretty stark existance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning: Possible spoilers.
The Fisher King, a 1991 film directed by Terry Gilliam is based on the myth of the same name-a medieval legend that tells the tale of a dying king who through betrayal and tragedy has lost the Holy Grail. Ostensibly the cup Jesus used at the last supper and into which drops of his blood were collected at the crucifixion, it is the only thing that can save him. He knows this but he is powerless to do anything about it, and although it is right in front of him, he can no longer have the ability to recognize it. It takes an innocent fool with unclouded eyes and a compassionate heart to see it and to fill it with the healing water that the Fisher King needs to be restored.
In the film version, Parry (Robin Williams) and Jack (Jeff Bridges) alternately play the fool and the king, each in retreat from his own reality and each the vehicle for the other's redemption. Their lives first intersect when Jack-a shock jock-inadvertently incites a disturbed listener to commit a horrific act of violence that destroys many lives including Parry's. Parry escapes into madness and homelessness, as in a sense does Jack (though his is manifested through alcohol and a parasitic relationship) and they are each lost in a world of guilt that they are powerless to overcome. It will take each to play the fool to the other's king to open each another's eyes to the possibility of redemption and new life.
Other characters are interwoven (Mercedes Ruehl and Amanda Plummer aptly play the love interests) but it is Parry and Jack who are both the redeemed and the redeemer in this tale. There are stops and starts and other theological and social messages that are interwoven throughout, but this is first and foremost a story about healing the wounds of others, and the importance of giving over receiving. Through Parry's redeeming act, Jack is redeemed and through Jack's redeeming act, so is Parry. Unable to heal or even see their own wounds, they clearly see the wounds of the other, and like Christ, they provide the bridge to life. The Holy Grail, visible only through the compassionate eyes of the fool, becomes the cup filled with the water of life from which they both take a drink and are resurrected.
This movie is really exceptional in a lot of ways. It's got one of those
plots, full of ironic reversals and personal struggle, that's been turned
into melodramatic trash in every creative medium ever invented. With Robin
Williams as the magic crazy guy and Jeff Bridges in an 80s ponytail, the
ways the basic concept could have gone awry (in other hands) are truly
frightening to contemplate. But with Terry Gilliam at the helm, The Fisher
King speaks to your emotions more directly and powerfully than 90% of the
movies out there without degenerating into sappiness.
Perhaps the most brilliant acheivement of this movie is the way it takes Robin Williams' crazy-improvisational persona and makes it an integral part of the story. Instead of being a tacked-on adjunct to the "real" movie, Williams' stream-of-consciousness patter is essential to the work as a whole.
At the same time, Gilliam is making an almost-mainstream movie for the first time in his career, while explicitly referencing his past (the Holy Grail). It all comes together into a movie you will never forget.
"The Fisher King" is one of those movies that shows how, although we
can't get over certain incidents, they may end up leading to our
redemption. Jeff Bridges plays Jack Lucas, a New York radio talk show
host. One day, he makes a mean remark to one of his listeners, and the
listener murders some people. When it gets reported that the man had
done this after a remark by Lucas, Jack knows that his career is over,
but also realizes how he has been affecting people.
Some years later, Jack is wondering the streets and meets Parry (Robin Williams), a homeless man whose mind is gone. Parry believes Jack to be a sort of hero and Jack can't get him to think otherwise. So, the two accompany each other from then on.
Probably the movie's most interesting aspect was how director Terry Gilliam shows what is happening in Parry's imagination, contrasting it with reality. The Red Knight and Holy Grail make for some unusual scenes. This may be Robin Williams' best performance ever.
The Fisher King can be viewed as an oddball dramedy like several others
during one's initial viewing, but then suddenly you're struck by the
hallucinations of Robin Williams's character, namely the sight of the
large, outlandish, scorching red figure of a demonic knight coming to
kill him. Things like this seem at once to throw the film out of
balance a little bit, like the film is making a straight line and
suddenly makes a sharp and brief stab upward, and then back down to
continue the line in the straight way it was before. One has to think
about The Fisher King and realize just how largely, outlandishly,
scorchingly different it is. Think about this plot when you're watching
the film. You'll realize how well it modestly unravels instead of
contriving itself to mystify us. The filmmakers show no ego and are not
interested in impressing themselves. They are telling their vivid,
dynamic story the way good films are made. The story is just completely
fresh and new. And with that in mind, thinking outside the box along
with Terry Gilliam and Richard LaGravanese, one shouldn't even think of
the brief sporadic fantasies the film splashes at us here and there as
anything so jolting.
Jeff Bridges turns in a fantastic, despicably likable performance. I say this not so much because I believe he has a universal effect on anyone who understands or enjoys the movie. I say this more because I related to him greatly. I felt like his character was very familiar with his self-centered angst, bitterness lathered on top, an emotional and sexual nature quite like mine, and frankly the performance in a serious relationship quite like mine. Bridges, who I have always thought of as a very good actor, has my kudos for understanding to the point of successful portrayal a type of person who is rarely completely understood.
Robin Williams, constantly underrated at this point for his self-indulgent bombast and personally difficult, nonstop communication of his sense of humor, is proved in this, as well as several other films I could mention, that he has true talent and feels his characters to the very core and projects as such. It is not and never has been right to reduce judgment upon him to surprisingly shameless look-at-me-fests like Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, and Good Morning, Vietnam, because he has always been tremendously capable. Above all, I think he is an actor whose work is founded upon intuition. He communicates his physical and psychological portrayal by emotional understanding and deep feeling. When you watch this film, do you not have that clutching grip upon his character's pain? Are you not taking that journey face to face with him?
Mercedes Ruehl is not a token here. She is not just the voluptuous Brooklyn Jew girlfriend who nags, criticizes men, and makes dinner the whole time. That is the way her character lays out, because that is the path the emotional position of her presence in the story leads. She is perhaps the strongest, most decisive, and understanding person of all four main characters, and believably so. She is also very sexy and very natural. Take the scene with her and Bridges stumbling with laughter down the street after the dinner scene. She is quite real in a scene that with many other players would've been annoyingly not so.
Amanda Plummer is a sad portrait of a very realistic person, ironically enough in a film that is greatly surreal. She is the lone wolf that drifts through life, crippled by a complete lack of self-assurance and with age has become extremely used to it. Plummer's rich, seldom screen time is great, very wise acting. When she is suddenly accosted by the attention and adoration of these other three people, she reacts, and I feel like I know many people who would react the same way.
The Fisher King is in my opinion the first great film Terry Gilliam ever made. He had never made a bad film before this one, but this is the film that really made me connect. It's filled with emotional understanding of the human condition and a parallel story and cinematic style that are so acutely unique and naturally offbeat. It is among the definitive Gilliam films. Perhaps the click that sounded off for a truly effective film came with the connection of very similar, very compatible perspectives between the writer and the director. It's a determined, forceful, emotional, passionate, and secretive movie.
I've watched Robin Williams/Jeff Bridges in this "fairytale" more times
than I count. Finally bought it. You have to watch it at least twice ,
in my opinion,because the first time all I could do was try to let it
I love movies that hit me broadsided and then blind me! I keep trying to watch it with my daughter, who only likes love stories, but if I can keep her still long enough she'll find out that this IS a love story, of the most incredible kind. A love story for all mankind.
I hate to gush, but if it's ever called for, it's called for here.
The first time I saw it, I was soooooooo impressed with Mercedes Rhuel's performance and actually said to my friend in the theatre, "That woman's gonna get nominated for the Oscar for this performance", which of course she won for her performance. So, I'm not so unsophisticated after all.
When i first rented this movie out, it was like an enchantment, even on a 4 inch screen. It was a tape but still, i felt the magic in the movie its self. But the Fisher King is more than a movie, it is a story of redemption, madness, guilt, sanity, poverty and love. In the movie, all these things come together. Jeff Bridges was always a well respected Hollywood actor. In the Fisher King, he plays a role a lot more different than the star man. He plays a radio talk show host Jack Lucas, a wild, arrogant radio DJ who's advice causes a man to assassinate seven people in a restaurant. Jack Lucas did this unintentionally, but as a result to that, he is now down and out in poverty. When almost killed by thugs, a insane homeless man (Robin Williams), saves Jack, and in the end turns out to be the husband of one of the restaurant victims. Parry (Robin Williams) has lost his sanity because of that. Jack feels so muck guilt that he wishes to help Parry meet with Lydia Sinclair ( the girl that Parry likes, played by Amanda Plummer), and help him find the one thing Parry treasures, the Holy Grail. The performances are incredible. Particualary Mercedes Rhuel, Robin Williams, Amanda Plummer, andJeff Bridges, they stole the show. This should be in the library of the top five fantasy dramas in Hollywood.
This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. I kept returning to it over they years and I always found it a great and enriching experience to watch. I especially like the shifting incarnations of the legendary Fisher King in this film (the wounded hero, kind of the wasteland, keeper of the holy grail. The archetype of the knight and of the wounded warrior can be seen as one of the prominent archetypes of masculinity we have. By this view, this movie can be seen as a research into masculinity as such. The performances by Bridges, Williams and Ruehl are exquisite. The eighties' New York is a great setting for this ethereal, symbolic quest, and the surreal theatricalness of some of the scenes (a la "Brazil") only adds to the overall artistic congruence of the film. The visuals are great. The movie works on many levels, so apart from this very abstract layer, we get a funny and intelligent comedy about modern misfits - with a great love story, or two. Also, I especially recommend this movie to anyone who loves New York City.
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