Monday, August 11, 2014

Thinking about Robin Williams

Robin Williams was one of those performers who, no matter how old you were, was always doing something you could enjoy.

As a child, it was like he was handing me performances - like the genie in Aladdin, or the unforgettable Mrs Doubtfire, or his Peter Pan in Hook - and those performances were just for me. They were so special and bright and full of manic love and joy. His face was childlike with wonder and he invited you inside to show you the new world. And who could forget his amazing voicework in FernGully! Or the look on Alan Parrish's bearded face when he demanded to know, "What year is it?!" in Jumanji.

No one can tell me they didn't want him to invent them some Flubber.

In my teenage years was when I discovered - with rapturous glee - that while being this elfish, charming star of family-friendly films, this manic comedian was also a dirty old man, filled with sex jokes and dirty words and screaming; a bottle of insanity uncorked. That was the day I discovered Live on Broadway 2000. My eyes popped, opening for what seemed the first time, as I wept with tears of hilarity, tipping over and falling out of my chair as I watched the whole DVD in my room at home.

Comedy could be like this? It could open up the brain and just let it rapid fire ideas and concepts for a solid hour? Make you laugh so hard you wept and laughed and needed more?

It was around this time that I first saw The Birdcage. And would come home day after day and manage to catch Mork & Mindy reruns on Foxtel. No matter where I went, no matter how old I was, this man was always making me laugh anew. And for wholly different reasons, I was dying of laughter in Death to Smoochy.

As I got older, I discovered his serious drama and thriller performances. One Hour Photo and Insomnia, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, The Night Listener and Bicentennial Man, which left me weeping by the end. This man with the rubber, comic face also had this deep darkness that he opened up for you. It was like a door had opened into his soul and you could see everything inside, his soulful eyes guiding you to where you needed to go and that he would be sure to keep you safe on the road.

I'm not going to do him the disservice of saying that every film the man did was wonderful or perfect of joyful. For every great film there were also titles like RV or License to Wed. But these just made you remember the amazing films all the more and appreciate them.

I grew up with Robin Williams guiding me. And I'm not sure where the road goes, now. The world is darker now, O Captain! My Captain!, that your bright spark has gone out. Can't we just go to Neverland? Please?