Has there ever been a movie as wonderful as Static, I was asking myself a little while back, just prior to seeing The Fisher King. Well, no there hasn't, as it turns out. Nevertheless, The Fisher King must rank somewhere not too far behind. This film was something quite extraordinary, and of course it was the divine Amanda who made it so.
Oh, it wouldn't have been a bad film anyway. Jeff Bridges, I've just discovered, is really great, and Robin Williams is very nearly human. But it's Amanda who raises it to the level of the sublime...
I was reading an online review by some self-appointed hack who assures us that he walked out before the movie was even over, and awards it a zero out of whatever. The reviewer goes on to inform us that Bridges' and Williams' performances were too convincing, and demonstrated just how boring and depressing it would be to spend time in the company of a boorish, self-pitying alcoholic loser and a mentally ill bum (sic). So there.
Well... Duh! Do you have to LIKE the characters in a film for it to have merit? Do you have to like the film at all, for that matter? It occurs to me that I HATED Saving Private Ryan. All the deafening gunfire and explosions and deaths and everything. Wouldn't want to see that opening sequence again. So was it, therefore, a bad movie? Well, go figure it out.
The point is this; the characters in The Fisher King need to be just the way they are for the story to have resonance. Lucas (Bridges) needs to fall from a great height before he can undergo the redemptive process he discovers through helping another. And he has to be an asshole too. If he were already kindly disposed toward the world, then it wouldn't be much of a journey for him, would it? The whole point is he's a surly misanthropic misfit who just happened to make good. He doesn't really know how success came to him, and he doesn't know how to cope, except by sinking into depression and burdening his girlfriend (the very wonderful Mercedes Ruehl) when he inadvertently throws it all away.
And Robin Williams? Wee-eeell, he's playing just the sort of character Robin Williams would play, but for once it works. Being a mentally damaged homeless former academic gives him free rein to goof around in the time-honoured manner (with little set pieces like the impersonation of a man having difficulty relieving himself, which are probably lifted staright from his stage act. But he doesn't get to do too much of the full-on Williams bellow, a la Good Morning Vietnam et al, for which we must be profoundly thankful... His character has humanity without slopping over into mawkishness. And it works so fine because this doesn't have Robin Williams Star Vehicle stamped through it like a stick of rock (remember how in every episode of Mork & Mindy a wonderfully strong supporting cast would dutifully step aside for the big star turn that was totally out of character for a naive alien, and invariably the low point of the show) The Fisher King is essentially an ensemble piece.
But this is turning into a review rather than a paean to Amanda. It will not do!
As most of the planet is probably already aware, Amanda plays Robin Williams love-interest. He worships her from afar, he follows her, but he never dares to talk to her. Which is where Bridges comes in. He needs to bring them together to atone for his being responsible for the death of Williams first wife. And so...
Isn't the scene with Amanda walking through Grand Central Station just the most AMAZING thing?
Lydia (Amanda's character) wears huge spectacles. She is clumsy. She is socially inept. How could anyone NOT love her? For me the absolute almost-in-tears moment is when she has to sign her name for membership at the video store and bends right down so her nose is almost touching the paper. That is just SO beautiful!!!
No mystery why this affects me so. That's pretty much how I have to live, and you might be slightly taken aback at the degree of derision and hostility this attracts in daily life. Okay, so I used to work in a police station, which didn't help. But I even got my hand slapped for it, and a ruler rammed up my nose, by a nurse at fucking Moorfields Eye Hospital, for god's sake. Oh, and all the knocking things over... That's DEFINITELY me... To see all these things portrayed in a character who seems dismissable at the outset but emerges as so beautiful and strong, exquisitely portrayed by the best actress ever ever EVER... A performance to cherish. And no one but Amanda could have done it.
In addition to which, she looks HOT in those glasses!!!