The Fisher King

The Fisher King (Terry Gilliam, 1991)

A former radio DJ, suicidally despondent because of a terrible mistake he made, finds redemption in helping a deranged homeless man who was an unwitting victim of that mistake.

Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is a radio DJ and the man of the city. He is about to become the star of his own sitcom. Everything is doing fine for him and his influence on the air is even as big as his ego. His world falls apart when a man influenced by his answer on the air does a monstrous act that lets the blame on Lucas. Three years later, we follow a depressive/drunk/suicidal Lucas living in what could have been his life if he didn’t blew it. Still as self-centered as the yuppie he was and just like Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, Lucas meets Perry (Robin Williams), a strange almost crazy man that is connected with him. Trying to even things with the greater power Jack tries to help Perry the best he can. In the way, both men are helping each other to get out of their own miseries.

Former Monthy Python director Terry Gilliam, sinks his teeth in a film that is more human and less fantasy than his masterpiece Brazil. Even if Perry’s quest is of Arthurian grandeur, the setting of early 1990’s New York City and the human drama that it represents seem to be harder themes for Gilliam. They only seem, because the personal approach to the whole thing might feel a little Fellinian or unsettling but the use of uncommon camera angles and the transitions between fantasy and reality are well handled. Just like the best films from Federico Fellini, a clear influence on Gilliam. At first, this directing feels a little disconnected and even outdated but once you get pass it, it’s a part of the charm. 

On the acting side of things, Jeff Bridges is brilliant, well is he ever been less than brilliant? His length and complex composition perfectly fits for this widely uncommon human drama. Plus, he is paired with one of the most obvious moment stealer: Robin Williams. The later is one heck of an actor when he can be mastered and well directed to concentrate his energy and huge tendency to improvise and be the clown. Portraying a mentally ill man was one of the best personification he must have been asked to do. He feels right for the role and even he later in his career he seems to be cast to play the same trick every time here he brings something to Perry that few actors could have achieved.

Often overlooked, The Fisher King is a poignant film that reminded me of the early 1990’s and represents a way to make movies like only one man does: Terry Gilliam. With great performances and actual themes, I recommend this film.

The review of this film is dedicated to the victims and families of the tragedy that occurred in Aurora, Colorado on July 20 2012. The subject matter of the film might not treat directly to what sadly happened but deals with some elements that occurred. Our thoughts are with you.

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