An Appreciation of…Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

This is actually quite difficult to write, because how do you honor someone like Robin Williams? A man who defined my childhood through his energy and brilliant comedic performances. It is incredibly difficult to choose the right words, and I don’t think any of us can possibly express our sadness. However, this is not an obituary or a essay on how upset his untimely death makes me. He had his demons that he had to fight, and all we can do is celebrate his long and beautiful career that he left behind.

I can’t think of an actor who has never phoned it in at least once – just took a job for the paycheck and did the bare minimum. Except for Robin. He might have had some serious flops in his life, but every film he starred in, he gave it his all – and if you’ve ever seen Robin perform, you know that his all is filled with energy, zest and insanity. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest comedians to ever live, and I think people are now realizing they may love their Carlos Mencias and Dane Cooks, but only now realize that Robin was their favorite comedian. Its unfair how we only realize how much we love someone when they’re gone, and we just couldn’t love Robin enough – he was always outrageous, hilarious and touchingly funny in everything he did.

Robin was also a skilled dramatic actor. Whether being comedic in an otherwise dramatic film (Dead Poet’s Society, Good Morning Vietnam) or being completely dramatic (One Hour Photo, Good Will Hunting), he proved his brilliant acting skills. He definitley took acting seriously, and seeing him in such serious roles juxtaposed with his unbelievably comedic roles show that he was one of the most talented actors in film history.

I want to choose seven essential Robin Williams films to list here, but there are too many to choose from. Instead, I am going to list my personal favorites – the films he made that made me laugh the hardest, think critically and touched me so well. If you haven’t seen them, go check them out. If you have seen them, revisit them. Unlike many performances, Robin’s acting just never gets old.

  1. The Fisher King. This was Robin at his finest – balancing comedy and drama. He was so gloriously weird and wonderfully touching as Parry, the homeless dreamer. It was a sweet film and a poignant one that is able to make you laugh and cry. I believe this to be Robin’s greatest screen performance, and one that I will most remember him for
  2. Mrs. Doubtfire. This is probably the film Robin is mot well-known for, and everyone and their grandmother has seen it. It is one of the funniest films ever made, and Robin is able to go all-out with comedic godliness here. I suspect this will be everywhere this week, so if you haven’t seen it, it is absolutely brilliant and give it another watch in memory of Robin.
  3. Aladdin. I think his performance as the Genie here was proof that voice-acting could be just as good as real acting. He brought such energy to a character who would become so iconic. It is a lovely performance, and I am glad we have it because Robin is just so good in it, its scary.
  4. Good Morning Vietnam. There was a time in my high school life when I lived by this film. Perhaps it was the idea of this person being thrown into this place filled with people without enthusiasm, and it was his job to bring everyone joy and laughter. Robin’s one-liners in this film are absolutely hilarious, but he also brings a more sympathetic side to his role – the fact is he was in a war zone, and there were people dying everyday. He could make a difference, and he did.
  5. The Birdcage. Probably Robin’s most underrated film. For once he didn’t play the flamboyant, energetic person in the film, but served as the straight-guy to the wonderful Nathan Lane. He had moments of comedic lucidity, but overall, he was sweet and touching as Armand, and The Birdcage is an underrated and wonderful film, and Robin is responsible for a lot of that. The eerie part is I rewatched it the night before Robin died, which is both sad and strangely touching.
  6. Night at the Museum. These films may not be great, but Robin brought so much to the role of Theodore Roosevelt. It was one of his more docile performances, and that’s not a bad thing – he was still sweet and wonderful in the role, and the fact that he was promoting the third film in the series at the time of his death is just melancholic.
  7. Everything else. I am going to leave this final spot here open. I want everyone to choose their own personal favorite Robin Williams performance and watch it to celebrate his life.

Robin Williams was an immense talent, and he will be so sorely missed. But I believe he knew how much all of his fans loved him, and I can only hope that he is up there, giggling away and being the eccentric, hilarious soul he always has been.

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