Movie of the Week: The Fisher King (1991)

Terry Gilliam directs Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams and Mercedes Ruehl in the fantasy drama where a depressed, fallen from grace, radio DJ tries to help the unstable homeless man who has saved his life.

The above plot précis is only about a third of The Fisher King’s overloaded story… there is romance, quests and slapstick comedy. It probably is the most “balanced” Robin Williams star role. And I’m aware of the irony of using these words. His tour de force as Parry manages to find equal time for all the shades of Williams that might dominate another of his movies. The motormouth off-script riffing mania of Good Morning Vietnam or Mrs Doubtfire, the inspirational and unlikely therapist of Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting, the extreme fantasy quest embarker of What Dreams May Come or Jumanji. There’s even the darkness and maudlin air and bleak sincerity that he explored in later roles more and more. All that is missing is the saccharine staleness of his worst instincts. He’s delightfully unpredictable here. It leaves Jeff Bridges to be the straight man and he makes for a perfect reticent foil for Williams’ antics. The acting is uniformly grand… Amanda Plummer and Michael Jeter have stand out roles while Mercedes Ruehl deservedly won an Oscar for her brilliant turn as the put-upon video store owner who has somehow attracted all these fumbling failures into her orbit. Gilliam transforms New York into a dreamscape – one where skyscrapers, Chinese restaurants and Central Park feel like artificial worlds of scale, magic and adventure. In a key moment, Grand Central Station at rush hour mutates into a glorious ballroom dance. A rare Hollywood movie about loss and losers that feels bigger and more entertaining than most superhero flicks. The Fisher King is busy… but wonderful for it.


Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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