I don't think I can think of a film that has such great acting, great directing, inventive hyper-reality aspects, incredibly well-placed and chosen music (for the most part), and such a corny, super-tired, boring script. And I hate to say that. Because the emotional journey of the film, the hyper-realism that Bobcat Goldthwait creates is excellent. He does an incredible job in this film, with its cynicism and pain. But the script ...
A failed writer and teacher at a prep school has a terrible son. Just absolutely terrible. He is the worst human being. And his father, Robin Williams, doesn't know how to connect with his son, or even how to father him. He has a secret relationship with another teacher, who is basically cheating on Williams with another more perfect English teacher. Williams comes home from a date to find his son, dead by autoerotic asphyxiation accident. Ashamed, Williams fakes his son's suicide, writing a suicide note for him. And things snowballs out of his control as the suicide note becomes public and starts changing everyone around him as Williams continues lying and writing more for his son.
This plot is hackneyed. There is no easier way to put it. The "Liar Revealed" is one of the most basic conflicts and plots in film, and it is tired. The thing that makes this film enjoyable beyond that is how Goldthwait treats the world of the film. The school's team is the Pugs. Everyone cartoonishly starts falling in love with Williams' writing, just fawning over it. On a talk show, Williams is introduced with a graphic that says "Son Killed Himself." There are long musical sequences, one very well done and very poignant, and the rest ... not. Wait, I was saying good things.
Williams plays wonderfully. This is his film. And the emotions in this movie are perfect. The comedy is ... not really worthwhile. But the emotion and the acting is so great. I wish this was a film I could recommend for anything beyond its acting ... but sometimes that is enough. And ...
Robin Williams committed suicide three days ago. It was inescapable. And I argued with myself about if I should say anything. I personally do not have a connection to Williams as a fan, not really. I never found him particularly funny in his stand-up. As a child I liked Genie ok, but carpet and Aladdin were my favorite characters. Jumanji was fun, but I liked the world more than the characters, and I never really liked Hook. As I grew older, I came to enjoy his more adult films, especially What Dreams May Come. That is a beautiful and wonderful film. But as I thought, I realized that I needed to say ... something. My "job" as it were is to talk about films, television, wrestling, and other such things. I just didn't know what. And at that same time, I found this movie. It was a perfect thing to talk about. I didn't go easy on the movie, as you can see, but it allowed me to start thinking and sharing and writing.
Suicide is difficult. Understatement, surely. I've dealt with depression a lot, though I don't believe I ever did deal with suicidal thoughts. It is foreign to me. But I understand the pain it can create for those who survive it. And my heart and prayers goes out to the Williams family. I can say very clearly, Williams touched the hearts of millions. While this film I found both good and frustrating, and I found Williams' career similarly, it isn't about that. It is about the emotion we all have. Emotion is pure. Laughter and tears. Anger and love. Williams was at his best with emotion. Its why his kids films always went just a little step more when he was the star. They were always just a little more genuine with him in them.
I don't know. I wish I had something more eloquent to say. Sometimes the message may be flawed, it may not be as genuine and emotional as it could be from someone else. But the emotion ... you know what, let me instead use Williams' words from this film:
"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not.
The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone."
Mr. Williams, we will never be alone because you have touched our hearts. And despite the pain, depression, or whatever may have been going through your life when you tragically felt alone ... you will never be alone within our memories.
Rest in Peace. I hope to hear you laugh in heaven.