In light of yesterday’s tragic news about the death of Robin Williams, a quick review of the actor’s films – which have grossed some $3.2 billion in U.S. box office sales – shows just how much sadness played a part in the comedian’s films.
That Mr. Williams suffered from bipolar disorder was no secret, nor was the fact that he had somewhat recently ended two decades of sobriety following a divorce. (He remarried in 2011.) His ability to deliver larger-than-life performances was always seen as his virtue, though few really contemplated the suffering that also accompanied his outsized talent and often manic behavior.
In recent years, Williams’s reputation had taken something of a beating. Though his films remained peppered with moments of real quality, his acting legacy was in danger of being remembered for its failures rather than its triumphs. A stretch of films ranging from 1991’s “Hook” to 1999’s “Bicentenial Man” (Including such train wrecks as “Toys,” “Jack” and of course “Patch Adams”) threatened to define Williams as the star of overly saccharine family-friendly fare whose manic quality seemed like a desperation cry for attention. But that same stretch also included some of his best work.
The past decade had seen Williams attempt to revamp his image with darker, even villainous roles. He returned to stand-up comedy, reminding audiences that he still knew some dirty words and wasn’t just Mrs. Doubtfire anymore.
He also continued to trade on his gift for impressions with historical roles in “The Night at the Museum” franchise and “The Butler.” But it will probably be his recent appearance on beloved cult show “Louie” that will serve as his epitaph. Williams (playing himself) is the only other attendee at the funeral of a former manager. The way Williams and CK sadly bond over the occasion at a dinner, and the final punchline the show delivers, are simultaneously heartwarming and heart wrenching – much like the career of the man who guest starred.
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