What Will Robin Williams be Remembered For?

As I’m sure is the case for many others my age, my first real introduction to Robin Williams was via Disney’s Aladdin. A film that was being replayed in our house just last week. I remember being fascinated and highly amused by the originality and exuberance of this character of the Genie. Animation was probably the only art-form which could begin to contain this man’s effervescence.

The actual first film I saw him in was Popeye. I remember being amazed that he could do backflips. I recently found out that it was directed by Robert Altman!

I loved Hook as a boy. I thought it was such a great great idea. I loved watching Peter Pan rediscover his powers. I was fascinated by it.

Bicentennial Man was the first film we ever watched on DVD. We gathered round as a family and watched it on our Windows 98. I remember enjoying it. Especially some joke about bogies. Dad explained to us that it was not a happy ending that he dies at the end after two centuries (not a spoiler because it’s in the film’s title), death is the last enemy he told us.

We all loved Flubber too. That was great fun.

I remember watching Jim in school (a sort of Benjamin Button / Big type thing) and being heartbroken by the melancholy of it. A bit later on I watched Patch Adams, and actually liked it — again because of the sadness in his eyes. He was a ‘tears of the clown’ performer I think. No matter how funny he was being, there was always a sadness back there, especially in the eyes, that’s what made him especially engaging to watch in Good Will Hunting, despite the expected physical energy being absent.

I watched One Hour Photo this year. That’s another stripped back performance, but it ends up terrifying! Soon after that, Dad and I sat down to watch The Fisher King, and that’s a mix, a bit of the stripped back thing and a bit of the mad antics.

One shocking film he’s in is one that I think very few people have seen called Father of the Year World’s Greatest Dad. It’s about a Dad whose son kills himself, but he doesn’t miss his son, because his son was a horrible child. Despite this, Williams accepts all sorts of sympathy for the death of his son, (the gold and the girls) he even gets Bruce Hornsby — who his son hated, but he loved — to sing at the boy’s funeral. I think it was by the Donny Darko director.

All those films, but I’ve never seen Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society or Awakenings!

My favourite Robin Williams thing I will remember him for is him being interviewed for the show Inside The Actors Studio. He is uncontainable. An interview with him one on one would have been mad enough, but put the guy in front of a crowd he’s on fire. 50000 impressions / riffs / jokes / physical tricks / slapstick gags / shouty wail things later, and I am a thoroughly impressed man. That same thing was what made him amazing to watch on Who’s Line is it Anyway too.

Another equally energetic, and — I get the sense — troubled actor is Jim Carrey. Dad always said that they should have done a film together, don’t know if that ever happened?

What does God think of Robin Williams? Someone on facebook said that Williams had sought some sort of evangelical soul-searching not too long ago, that’s interesting. We don’t know what happened in the last moments of his life.

I remember when Michael Jackson died, John Piper said that in the past minute 100 other people died too, 100 more souls going to meet with God.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter how Robin Williams will be remembered. But it is important to acknowledge the extraordinary talent he had.

There are two great animated films that have completely differing messages. Incredibles says ‘if everyone is special, no one is’ and Lego Movie says ‘everyone is special’. But I think both are true. Yes, it’s true, there are the Robin Williamses of the world who are extraordinarily talented in an obvious way. But God has given every single one of us unique gifts, everyone is an interesting individual person. We mustn’t spend too long getting caught up with these celebrated heroes, because as we’ve seen today, they’re mortal. 

Really, it is we the living who must consider the question of whether the God who granted each of us these unique talents will be praised or passed by.

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