Robin Williams (1951-2014)

As yesterday’s post went off the rails I turned on the computer intending to have another look at Exodus: Gods and Kings. Then I read that Robin Williams had been found dead, and I thought Exodus can wait a day.

Williams made so many films, and was an actor who made the successful transition from stand-up to movies and then to dramatic part. I’ll point out three performances which have stayed with me. His Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam was fantastic, and I remember being blown away at the energy he brought to the role. The Genie in Aladdin was another performance which was as high-octane as his Adrian Cronauer, but much more of a straight comedic role. Both need several viewings to catch everything said with his rapid-fire delivery.

But my favourite performance is Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for it, and its one I think few people would disagree with. Good Will Hunting is a movie which has something to say to young people in the struggle that Will Hunting goes through in trying to find his place in the world. This is a problem everyone has; not only geniuses feel adrift in it all as they are growing up. But it also speaks to the adults in the audience through Sean Maguire, for he too is on a personal journey since the death of his wife. Just because you’re not a twenty-something any more doesn’t mean you’ve got it all worked out.

Hunting has more raw intelligence than Maguire, but he doesn’t have his wisdom. The intelligence he won with a free ticket in the genetic lottery, but the wisdom of what best to do with his life and intelligence has to be learned in a way that he’s not equipped to do. Maguire knows this, and as he struggles through his own problems he also struggles to impart to Will the skills he needs to start taking responsibility for himself and his gifts.

Some amazing supporting actor performances eclipse great movies. Whenever The Usual Suspects or The Dark Knight are talked about Kevin Spacey’s ‘Verbal’ Kint and Heath Ledger’s Joker come up. But what I like about Williams in this role is that there’s nothing flashy going on in the performance. There’s no mannerisms or larger than life qualities to bring out in Maguire; he’s a regular person working through a regular person’s problems while trying to help another. He’s totally believable as this character.

Beasts: zero, Breasts: zero, Foo: one, Heads Roll: zero. Despite these very low scores winstoninabox says check it out. And have a drink for Robin Williams when you do.

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