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THE FISHER KING, 1991
Movie Review

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THE FISHER KING MOVIE POSTER
THE FISHER KING, 1991
Movie Reviews

Directed by Terry Gilliam
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Amanda Plummer, Mercedes Ruehl
Review by Matthew Toffolo



SYNOPSIS:

A radio DJ, suicidally despondent because of a horrible mistake he made, finds redemption in helping a deranged homeless man who was a victim of it.

OSCAR winner for Best Supporting Actress (Ruehl)

OSCAR Nominee for Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Williams), Best Art Direction, Best Musical Score

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REVIEW:

I loved the performance of Jeff Bridges in this film. He plays Jack Lucas, the man who is terribly confused but smart enough to do something about it, but never smart enough to master his true inner feelings. Whenever he begins to feel he has no idea what do to, but he knows he needs to do something. Which of course makes him even more confused to what to really do. A terrific performance. Perhaps the most underrated performance in movie history.

We first meet Jack Lucas when he's on top of his game. He is a Howard Stern type. A radio personality who's success is keyed on him making gross judgments on people he doesn't know. He makes fun of people for silly laughs and people listen because we live in a society where we like to judge and make fun of people that we don't know. It's a temporary way for a sad and lonely person to feel good about them self for about 10 minutes. In 1991 this claim to fame was somewhat new, but now as of this writing in 2009, this is something many people try to do to succeed in life. That's why all of the TMZ type of websites and the many tabloid newspapers are so successful. It's easy to judge Britney Spears than judge your own life.

Then one day Jack's tirade on a lonely man on air backfires - literally! He sets off someone he laughs at very cruelly who was at a breaking point on national radio who then goes to a restaurant and kills 7 people and then himself. Jack's life is turned up-side-down because his words have effected many people's lives.

Cut to three years later and he's a different man. He's in hiding, living above a video store with his new girlfriend and is really at a low point. Now instead of judgment just at people, he's judging the entire world which of course means he's judging himself. Alcohol tries to heal his wounds but of course he'll either have to face his demons or die an early death. He can't seem to shake the guilt he feels for setting off a mass murder.

With him is a woman who loves Jack for who he is. There is always someone to love us even if we think there is no one or we think we don't deserve it. Jack's relationship with Anne Napolitano (played by Mercedes Ruehl who won an Oscar) is very unique in cinema storytelling. She is a strong women who is independent and really doesn't need a guy like Jack. But she sees in him the fully developed person he once was. Not the present time depressed borderline alcoholic that he is. And we get why she likes him which is the key to this film. Anne practically represents the audience as we need to like him in order to follow his journey and therefore the journey of The Fisher King. And through her eyes we see Jack as she sees him. Yes, he's a jerk. But there is a really why he's a jerk. When you look into his eyes, you see a scared child.

Their scenes are some of the best male to woman conflict moments in cinema history as there is so much subtext happening (love, hate, anger, sex, insecurity... all the juicy emotions) between the two. And the performances of both Ruehl and Bridges is terrific. They are both playing characters that are smart but confused and really have no present time direction. Most character's in movies are about them having an agenda in every single scene they are in. They know what they need and what they are thinking and set off to accomplish it in each of the scenes they are in. In The Fisher King, no one really knows what's going on because we are in reality but also in a fantasy world. And the fantasy world is what each of the character's belief system is. What they each think life is about and whether things are bigger than them.

Enter the crazy people. Or the people who society thinks is crazy, event though we are all a bit crazy. Robin Williams plays the key character Parry in The Fisher King. A role he was born to play (and a role Adam Sandler ripped off in Reign on Me). Part wacky, part depressed. Part intelligent, part insane. His wife dies in the mass murder Jack blames himself for and he never recovered from it. When Jack goes on a drinking binge one night, he meets up with Parry in Central Park (the key setting in the film) and figures out who he really is.

Jack thinks that meeting Perry is a big sign from above and if he helps Parry out then his guilty conscious will be cleansed. But of course life isn't that simple. And The Fisher King gives us a complex but extremely entertaining film. This is a special movie. If you haven't seen it, please see it right away.

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