Two days ago, we lost one of the greatest actors of our generation: the always inspiring Robin Williams. Williams showed the world how to laugh, love and live through countless films and a number of incredible performances. We will pay tribute to him by sharing our thoughts on our favorite Robin Williams performances
There are a handful of great Robin Williams movies, particularly those that were significant to me as a child, Aladdin and Night at the Museum being my two favorite. Night at the Museum was the first movie I chose to watch twice in theaters and Aladdin was the first animated film that really stuck with me. However, years after my days of PG movies exclusively, my dad showed me Good Will Hunting, one of Williams’ more dramatic performances. Though my attention span ranged from half-asleep to wide-awake, there are two scenes I remember crystal clear. Both of these scenes feature Williams, in one of the best dramatic performances of his career.
The two scenes I was talking about are two of the more famous scenes of the movie. The first one is a scene when Williams’ character, Dr. Sean Maguire, is scolding his patient, the brilliant yet brash Will Hunting (Matt Damon). For much of the movie, Williams portrays Maguire with a feeling of empathy and is very sweet towards Will, as a therapist should. But in this one scene, Williams provides one of the most memorable monologues in recent history. “You’re just a kid” he says, condemning Will’s ignorance. The way Williams delivers the monologue, with utmost honesty, is a prime example of his outstanding acting ability. The actual content of the line, however, is what makes Good Will Hunting, specifically Williams’ performance, so significant to me.
Before I get to what he actually said, I’m want to talk about the other scene I remember from the movie: the (almost) last one. It features him consoling a hysteric Will Hunting, who is finally confronting his tragic childhood. Dr. Maguire is there to heal and comforting him. This scene is one of the moments I remember Williams in the most. He is warm, comforting, and loving towards this cocky young man, who hasn’t done much to deserve Maguire’s love. yet it doesn’t matter. Connecting back to the other scene, everything Robin Williams says has so much meaning. Will Hunting listened to Maguire’s scolding because of how Robin Williams could deliver the serious lines with such warmth and sincerity.
In Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams displays what everyone will miss about him: he is kind, intelligent, caring, warm, funny, and just a nice guy. Obviously I never knew him, but his presence on screen—specifically the love and kindness he radiates—is why we’ll miss him. You just knew he was one of the good guys in the industry. You just knew.
R.I.P to one of the greats.
Divorced dad dresses in drag, pretends to be a nanny, works his way back to his kids.
By all accounts, the above premise (The plot for Mrs. Doubtfire, in case you haven’t seen it) is ridiculous. It’s gimmicky, strange and could easily be botched by some no-name director. So why is it one of the highly-regarded movies I grew up with?
Robin Williams. Mrs. Doubtfire is a perfect example of how Williams could liven up any premise and keep any movie moving. Williams had a certain quality about him that I couldn’t place until I rewatched Doubtfire earlier this week but I think I’ve finally pinned it down: he gave every movie he did (EVERY movie) his all.
I can’t think of any film where Williams seemed uninterested or uninvested. Here he is, expected to give a lively performance while wearing what looks like pounds of makeup and ridiculous prosthetics and he fully delivered.
There was also something genuine about him, about the way he played his characters which shines here. He brings himself and some of his own quirks into his character without it being distracting or off putting. If anything, it was that connection that opened the doors to all of the characters we appreciate today.
I’ve heard that Williams enjoyed ad-libbing and improvising lines and I can totally see that. It’s easy to imagine a director, a writer, even a whole crew sitting back to watch Williams deliver joke after joke that a show running team would spend hours laboring over.
I also particularly enjoy that Williams is talented enough to play two distinct characters here. Nowadays, we see comedies featuring male actors in drag (An oddly crowded niche) come out every other month yet the vast majority of them just play that premise to death. In Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams creates another character who is very much alive. In fact, the movie is very aware of this and references it a lot with the characters treating Doubtfire as a wholly different person.
In short, Robin Williams had this spark to him that really made him unique. As the universal praise for him in the wake of his death suggests, his humor resonated with everyone in some way or another. This film is just one example out of a myriad of showcases for his talent. In fact, writing this makes me want to get even more familiar with him.
Rest in peace, Mr. Williams.
Bit of a spoiler for the movie, but great scene.