The Fisher King (1991) Directed by Terry Gilliam. Responsible for provoking an unstable caller to mass-murder/suicide, wealthy, narcissistic shock-jock Jack Lewis bottoms out, becoming a drunken, depressed video store employee living with its owner above the shop. One evening, taken for a vagrant and brutally attacked, he’s rescued by Parry, an articulate madman in search of the Holy Grail.
When Jack discovers he’s partially responsible for his rescuer’s state, he grudgingly agrees to help; cleans up, rectifies his single ongoing relationship, plays cupid with a young woman Parry admires, and breaks into the home of a rich man who ostensibly owns the coveted artifact. Life begins to turn around for both men until Parry goes off the rails in chase of the hallucinated “red knight” and ends up in a coma. A splendid film whose imagination is steeped in plausibility; wrenching and immensely rewarding. Great ending. Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges. Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter.
What Dreams May Come (1998) adapted by Ronald Bass from the 1978 novel by Richard Matheson. There’s a reason this won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and the Art Directors Guild Award for Production Design. It’s the most painterly film you may ever see. Some art knowledge enriches but you don’t need it. Nor is this a visual film without heart and guts.
Robin Williams delivers a superb performance as pediatrician Chris Nielsen who copes somewhat better with his children dying in a car crash than his painter wife. When, a few years later, Chris dies in a second crash, Leona succumbs to despair and takes her own life. Instead of joining her loving husband in Heaven, she’s sent to Hell. Chris is determined to at least see her again and to try to get her out. Guided on the extraordinary journey, he puts himself in great danger. Nothing airy fairy about this. It’s a dramatic love story. Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., Max Von Sydow, Rosalind Chao.
Patch Adams (1998) based on the life story of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams and the book, Gesundheit: Good Health is a Laughing Matter by Dr. Adams. Both heart and mind of this heartwarming film are in the right place. Disregard middling reviews. Watching an older medical student whose passionate approach to healing is steeped in humanity (and humor), come up against the establishment’s impersonal, by-the-book rules, you can’t help but long for his approach to have caught on. Though Williams gets to fly his quirk flag, the plot is by no means all sunshine and flowers. Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton.
Bicentennial Man (1999), based on the 1992 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, is the story of Andrew, a robot introduced into the Martin family in 2005. At first tortured by the kids and a source of discomfort for mom, Andrew becomes integral by showing sensibilities, sensitivities, and creativity for which he hasn’t been programmed. Mr. Martin respects and encourages this. Serendipitously creating art for the youngest child, Andrew finds his is salable work and is given his own bank account. The first, needless to say, for a robot.
When Mr. Martin dies, Andrew sets out to discover whether there are any more out there like him and comes across a scientist integrating human attributes (and body parts) into robotics. The two work together to advance him both internally and externally. (Visuals are great.) With no sense of time passing, Andrew returns home mistaking the granddaughter of the youngest Martin child for the girl he knew.
Despite odds, a relationship grows. Andrew is in love and determined to “be” human for Portia. This is NOT Pinocchio. Much of it is futuristically credible. A court determining the definition of “human” is way ahead of its time. Robin Williams. Oliver Platt, Sam Neill, Embeth Davidtz.
Top photo: Bigstock