The Fisher King
Release year: 1991
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriter: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter, Lisa Blades, David Hyde Pierce
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Best Supporting Actress (Mercedes Ruehl). 4 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Robin Williams), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score. 2 Golden Globes: Best Supporting Actress Comedy/Musical (Mercedes Ruehl), Best Actor Comedy/Musical (Robin Williams).
As a reaction to a conversation over the radio with DJ Jack (Jeff Bridges) a man commits violence with devastating results, leaving Jack a ruined man due to guilt. During a drunken suicide attempt he runs into the homeless Parry (Robin Williams), crazy and delusional after losing his wife, and he happily claims Jack is the ‘chosen one’ to help him steal the holy grail. First Jack rejects him but then he discovers that their past is more intertwined than he would ever have thought.
I have read several times about a performance from Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society, 1989) that tso and so is a rare serious performance in the popular comedian’s career, but truth is that Williams delivered several serious performances in his far too short life. This is one of the better ones (and none of them are bad). His take on a mad homeless man, haunted by the horrors he is unable to remember, is in so many ways larger than life that it is impossible to imagine anyone else but a man as full of life as Williams play the part. At once heartbreaking as well as full of hope, he graps every scene he is in and lights it up and ends up being the beating heart of a movie that in itself is a wounded and bleeding heart. However, he does not carry the movie on his own but is surrounded by talent, one being the always amazing and underappreciated Bridges (True Grit, 2010), whose radio DJ goes through every emotion as he moves from arrogant to broken with guilt without ever losing a beat. Whether it is the succesfull asshole or the beaten down and suicidal loser, Bridges is a joy to watch and manages to make his character every bit as dislikeable as possible, without him every losing our sympathy. He is matched by the brilliant Ruehl (Another You, 1991) who with her warm and sweet, yet tough and independent girlfriend to Jack, won a well deserved Oscar, while Plummer (Pulp Fiction, 1994) is a delight as Parry’s love interest. The movie showcases that certain look Gilliam has become known and loved for, with Dutch tilt shots, television screens and mad characters The Fisher King is every bit a modern mythological fantasy as many of Gilliam’s other movies, with the flaming Red Knight chasing a terrified Parry through the foggy streets, representing the memories of his past he is running from. With the mythological elements only exsisting in Parry’s mind, the movie never loses it’s seriousness even though the twisted mind of the homeless hero lets us enjoy a fantastic, as opposed to a dreadfull and dark, drama. The result is a magnificent story told by a cast delivering some career best performances and a wonderful tale of redemption, love and how things sometimes only works out when you do them for the right reason.
The Red Knight costume was fashioned out of latex over leather and urethane, with the helmet cast in aluminum and fireproofed. The “pennants” on the armor were made from Chinese silk, fishing poles and dune buggy antennae. The suit weighed approximately 125-150 pounds and was entirely self-contained: it was padded to protect stuntman Chris Howell in the event of a fall, and could have ice packs placed inside to keep Howell cool. Fire and smoke effects were controlled by Howell via buttons on the knight’s lance. Propane tanks fueling the helmet’s fire bursts were hidden in the horse’s saddle, along with oxygen tanks for Howell’s breathing apparatus (hidden in the helmet along with a two-way radio).
Picture copyright: Sony Pictures