Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Farewell, Robin Williams

One of the key entertainers of the 1980s appears to have taken his life

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 01:05


It is impossible to entirely avoid all those cheap cliches about pain that often accompanies comedy. Of all the comic actors who seemed to carry a sadness around, Williams always looked the most conspicuously dogged by demons. He made no secret of his various dependency issues. But it was more than that. There was a desperation to his comedy that looked to be covering up some inner panic. Even in Mork & Mindy, Williams allowed his mouth to turn down at the edges and his eyes to dart nervously as if eager for an exit.

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Many critics felt he was at his best when allowed to improvise and scat. And he certainly added original energies to films such as Good Morning Vietnam and (though unseen) Aladdin. But, for me, he was at his best when allowing those demons to seep out through the cracks. He really was superb in Good Will Hunting and the Oscar he received was deserved. He did more good work in Insomnia. For this writer, however, his very best performance was as the buttoned-up maniac in Mark Romanek’s One-Hour Photo. Yikes, that’s a scary turn. There are depths unrevealed in his twitchy demeanour.

It would be dishonest to ignore the many, many ropy family films and broad comedies he mugged through over the past 20 years. There was some wasting of talent there. He surely could have done a bit less ┬áLicence to Wed and a bit more Insomnia. Still, that is maybe a conversation for another day. Williams remains one of those few actors who managed to give character to a generation. The 1980s were Williams-coloured. His brashness suited the bellowing on Wall Street and the funk that was rising downtown. If you’re anything other than an old bugger you grew up with Robin Williams.

The news is still coming in. But all sources are suggesting that he killed himself. The poor old fellow. I hope he knew he brought a lot of people a great deal of fun.

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