Robin Williams was a genius. And like most geniuses, you love him or hate him. The thing that strikes me about RW is that he stuck around long enough to have a body of work that has a lot of stuff in it that nobody else on the planet would do. That is for better and for worse - but there it is.
My first reactions:
- He wasn't that old, was he?
- No he wasn't: 63.
- Suicide, that figures.
- There was nobody around to tell this guy how he was wrong, and he finally figured it out. Whoops.
- Oh. Depression. Ugh. That's nasty.
- That makes a lot more sense.
- I don't feel sorry for him, but at least he wasn't as bad as Carlin.
- Don't speak ill of the dead. Don't speak ill of the dead.
- I'm going to have to write this all down.
- Hmm. Dead Poets Society. One of my favorites.
I have no sympathy for suicides. You can read all about that here. Here's an excerpt that I think applies to Williams:
Woody Allen is crazy. We always knew it. You can be a crazy genius, but then you'll be one of those stupid geniuses that can't even appreciate their own value because they keep entertaining their crazy thoughts. I mean there are a billion books in a million libraries full of interesting things to fill your head with, but entertaining crazy thoughts is a waste of time. Oh yeah, and there is music, and art, and everything that has yet to be discovered on this planet. I mean, you could learn a whole new language. Or you can just decide to focus on the crazy fucked up part of your life and implode. For a long time, we all thought Woody Allen was cute because he was all neurotic and seeing shrinks, and people thought being slightly neurotic was fascinating. He just wanted to bang his own daughter. Crazy. Because the whole world is not interesting enough, right?
And that's why I thought bullet point #4. But since I have a good idea of how counselors deal with anxiety which is lightweight depression, I know that Williams probably found himself in the shoes of Pagliacci. So I wonder exactly if he ever dealt with all that by playing against type. You see there is no question in my mind that Robin Williams' best roles as an actor came from his performances as an evil character.
- One Hour Photo
I never saw him in my wife's favorite film of him, The World According to Garp. It may turn out to be one of those avoided matters that turn out well. But I can tell you that a great deal of his mawkish sentimentalism got on my final nerve and he has singularly impressed me as being the star of one of the worst films of all time; What Dreams May Come. Awful. But when he could be balanced - when he was not in full farce mode, which only worked at a very superficial level, Williams could be good. That would be Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King.
But I think it will be, in light of all this unpleasantness, Good Will Hunting that will mark him. It shows in film what he must have accomplished at some point in his life and career, the ability to live with dignity in light of an unspeakably tragic loss. Williams must have lost his own ability to lift his own spirits and could not do what our other great clowns (Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, Rowan Atkinson) have done to be serious in life.
I cannot say that Williams ever touched in me in a profound way, but it was good to have someone of his genius to be a lovable spoof. One thing Williams never did was sink into the vulgarian perversity characteristic of this age - and unlike Carlin, though Williams would do his share of moralizing, he never became shrill or pushy. You got the feeling that although he seemed to be one that could never stay serious for any length of time, that he was one of the good guys. All the more tragic for his failure. He was, still to the end, and sadly exactly Mork from Ork - a man blessed and cursed with an inability to keep still or settle his mind.
He rests at long last.