© 1991 Columbia Pictures Corporation

The Fisher King (1991)

Continuing with my exploration of Terry Gilliam’s film, I watched The Fisher King for the first time in at least 15 years. This is probably Gilliam’s least typical and most accessible movie. This is probably because it is the only Gilliam film for which he was not also involved with writing the script, and it is the only one of his films with a happy ending and is the only one that could even remotely be described as a romantic comedy. Still, there are typical Gilliam touches, such as an only partially-explained knight in red armor chasing Robin Williams through the streets of New York, and Gilliam’s delving into the psychology of the characters makes it the best romantic comedy of the ‘90s, if indeed it is a romantic comedy.

I have always found Robin Williams rather annoying, and he always seems to by trying much harder than necessary no matter what he is doing, but he is bearable here and his normal antic actually fit the character for once. Williams plays a homeless man who believes a New York millionaire has the Holy Grail in his mansion and Jeff Bridges is a washed up shock jock DJ who wants to help him get the girl and the grail in order to get his own life back on track. But the most interesting characters are not these two leads. Mercedes Ruehl deserved the best supporting actress Oscar she won for her turn as Anna, a video store owner who is the girlfriend and surrogate mother of the helpless character played by Bridges. The most heartbreaking scene in the film has her at a candle-lit dinner table in her apartment over the video store, sputtering out “I do not need this! You come and go and all I do is cook like a jerk…” as Gilliam’s camera pulls back to reveal that she is talking to an empty chair. And former Broadway actor Michael Jeter steals the few scenes he is in as, well, a former Broadway actor who lost his mind due to the pressure of auditions.

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“I'm sick to death of death. I want to enjoy things, have fun, live every day like it's the last day. Wouldn't that be nice, a lifetime full of last days?”
-Helen Ellswirth (Elizabeth Taylor)
from The Last Time I Saw Paris