Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Life Change According to Robin Williams' Greatest Roles

Recently, I've been addressing the increased role of inspiration over information in our current society, as well as the dangers of reaching a point (or points) of inspiration overload, when the messages encouraging life-change all around would become so insistent, that we ignored them, became callous, or generally overloaded.

The quick flurry of comments to my recent post on Robin Williams top roles, clearly show we are familiar with many of his greatest performances, and after posting my own list, I realized that in each of my top 5 roles Robin Williams' characters effectively help induce life change in the lives of others.

Yet...while at times, Robin Williams is clearly inspirational (especially in Dead Poet's Society), as he uses words and poetry to effectively interplay with his students notions of life and the importance of "seizing the day." Yet, it's not inspiration alone that effectively creates the change at hand.

No, these powerful roles don't rest on inspiration alone...as a homeless man, a magic genie, a psychologist, and a cross-dressing housekeeper, Williams is able encourage change in the lives of others, not by inspiration, but by forming deep inter-connectivity.

While as John Keating is the most "inspirational" of characters in Dead Poet's Society, he connects with his students in unique ways uncharacteristic of other teachers at the boarding school. He doesn't just stick to poetry, but cares about their complete lives. He attends their plays, he asks them questions, and interacts at a deep level that encourages his students to change and live their lives in different ways.

Genie certainly has no desire to inspire Aladdin in many other ways, but that he might use his final wish to free genie from his fate. Yet, the Genie through his own power and interconnectivity is able to change Aladdin's life, including knowing that in Aladdin's weakness, drowning underwater, Genie takes on the role of Power of Attorney knowing Aladdin well enough to use his 2nd wish for him. And Aladdin's life is forever changed through the relationship Genie and Aladdin forge.

Sean Maguire plays an inspirational and actively connected role in the life of Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting. It is similar experience that is shared between the two men that Robin Williams' character, as a psychiatrist is able to do in Will Hunting's life what no one else can. Will Hunting begins to make choices for himself, risking the chance of failure.

When Daniel Hillard and his wife divorce in Mrs. Doubtfire, Hillard realizes how much his kids mean to him as well as what a loss the relational change will have on him as well as his children. Hillard works vigilantly to find a way to impact his children's lives in ways he never did before as he takes on the persona and form of an elderly English housekeeper. The lives of Hillard's children (and even ex-wife) are improved because of Daniel Hillard's interconnectivity.

And even as a homeless, psychologically deranged man in The Fisher King, Robin Williams' character Parry is able to save radio DJ Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) from being set on fire by gang members as well as saving Parry from the pain and suicidal desires he is experiencing after his words over the radio causes a killing rampage. Despite Parry's delusional desires to find the Holy Grail, his interconnectivity with Jack helps redeem himself in a meaningful way.

It is my belief that in a information and inspiration overloaded world, the most significant way true life changes can and will occur in our lives will be the direct result of deep interconnectivity and relationships.

The exciting and encouraging thing that can be seen in these roles as well is that when true life-on-life developments occur both parties are open to the opportunity to change. Whether it's Genie being freed from the lamp, Daniel Hillard having the opportunity to be with his children, or Parry getting the holy grail, the change-maker is changed as well.


Jeff Reed said...

personally, I can say I was at Inspiration Overload everytime I heard him say....


Paula said...

Community. I don't mean "where you live", but rather "how you live". That is community to me, and I agree with you, that the interconnectedness of lives meaningfully shared is the truest way to experience God's kingdom. Iron sharpens iron, ideas about love have to become reality or you won't survive...there is no room for faking it when you live for other people.

I won't make a list of fave Williams films. You've all done a great job of that for me. LOL!

Terence Towles Canote said...

I think this is true of many of Robin Williams' roles. Indeed, he goes through such a transformation in What Dreams May Come, even if it is after his death.

AK said...

Ok, so RV was all about deep interconnectivity and relationships. I'm just sayin'... Don't hate on it.

(I really didn't love RV but Anthony has been pushing me to antagonize you...I think it is very interesting how many of Willims' roles have that type of theme.)

JOEmeow said...

The reason I really love Robin's performance in Death to Smoochy is because if you knew him in real life, he's a lot like that, and he fits the role perfectly.

He's actually a good family friend of mine, I met him when I was really little and I remember him being this really silly guy my parents knew and then as I got older I realized who he was and thought that was really cool that we know him.

Out Of Jersey said...

I agree that we are on a major overload of inspiration, but what other options do we have? quite frankly I enjoy dark comedies.

And I got a question for you. A co-worker and i were wondering if there were ever a movie where the bad guy wins and the good guy loses? I can think of one.

RC said...

wow jeff, i guess that means you were hitting info overload pretty early on...scary :-)

paula, i agree God's kingdom is/can only be experienced on this earth with others.

mercurie, you're right the transformation he experiences in what dreams may come is significant, and as you say it impacts his own life, and in a spiritual sense deeply impacts the eternity that he and his wife experience.

ak, anthony can antagonize me all day...bring it on!

joemeow...i don't know what to think...robin williams is most like his death to smootchy character???? that's cool you know him.

cube, as far as good guy, bad guy stuff...it just depends on how you look at it. Think about the two versions of Oceans 11. In the original version it was a good ending when the rat pack got in trouble at the end of their heist (they were committing a crime) and so in essence the bad guys lost. but in the modern retailing the "bad guys" are who a modern audience is rooting for, and in essence they win when they are not caught at the end of the heist. But in reality...didn't the bad guys win?