The nineties had their share of comedies – from the usual stuff to the more sophisticated. Much of it was lost in the drivel, some deservedly so. However, one of my favourite comedies from the nineties is an oft forgotten piece, one of my favourites from 1991 and a film featuring the best work Robin Williams and possibly Jeff Bridges have done – as far as I’m concerned anyway – the title in question is The Fisher King. The Fisher King, is the story of a cynical former radio host Jack[Bridges] who befriends a homeless man - Parry -[Williams]. It turns out that an indiscretion by Jack has led to the unravelling of Paddy’s life. So at the urging of his girlfriend Anne [Mercedes Rhuel] he makes a move to help Parry find what he feels he needs – the Holy Grail.
The Fisher King is a comedy that veers dangerously close into the supernatural, but for all its humour it’s also vividly poignant. Robin Williams is known most for his comedic work, though he has excelled in the occasional drama. In The Fisher King he toes the line between both genres. Parry is a funny man, but he is also a broken man and Williams is able to show us the pain and hurt while still making us laugh. Jeff Bridges must play the straight man to Williams and he’s excellent as the cynical Jack I actually can’t say that either is better than the other. However, the highlight of the film comes with Mercedes Ruehl who earned an unlikely Oscar playing Bridges’ girlfriend. Like Whoopi Goldberg immediately before her and Marisa Tomei immediately after she is a huge source of comedy. Like Williams too she also needs to get dramatic and does it well. That is why her performance is a favourite of mine.
The Fisher King has unfortunately become forgotten. I don’t think that Terry Gilliam will ever be able to supersede the comedic yet emotional core of this. This is sort of the film that people see and it makes them feel happy without insulting their intelligence, the script is vibrant, the acting is excellent and it is a completely satisfying film. It’s an underrated gem of the nineties.