I was a kid when Robin Williams was rising to his pinnacle, Aladin and Mrs. Doubtfire were staples in the house and I watched them over and over again. Whenever I hear of a celebrity death my thoughts generally go, “aw, that’s a shame”, I’m momentarily ‘sad’ and I feel bad for their families, but I’m not that emotionally affected. There are a few exceptions, Alan Rickman, Leonard Nimoy, Carrie Fisher, Terry Pratchett, and Mr. Williams are among the handful of exceptions. I’ve read their books if they have them, I’ve watched their interviews and I was a super fan.
I found Robin Williams fascinating on a lot of levels, he was just such an extreme personality and I tend to get drawn in by those sorts of people. So, of course, I was going to watch this the moment I could get my hands on it.
This touched on a little bit of everything, it went through his childhood years, early career and his last years. His father worked for Ford Motor Company and he was gone a lot for work, he was a bit of a serious man who didn’t smile all that often. They had to move a lot and he was an only child, so he was left alone in a big house with only the maid for company. It drove his need to be noticed, and he spent so much time alone he started to develop his voices. His mom is where he got his sense of humor, she was always making jokes or pulling a prank.
Robin didn’t meet his two half-brothers until later on in life, all three of the brothers were very happy to find each other and are resentful they never knew each other before, all three brothers were raised as only children. They all mentioned having a very lonely lifestyle as a kid, and it affected them as they got older.
He went to an all-boys private school, he did well in school and was an athlete – that part surprised me. I figured he would have been a class clown, but that didn’t come until later, he was actually a serious student in his earlier years. It was his senior year play that got him on stage for the first time in a comedy role, and from there it was history. He started doing stand up, and then he landed a role that was the beginnings of Mort and Mindy – the show that really launched this guy from an unknown to a household name.
He met his first wife doing stand up, they had a very sweet story at first, she was a big part of his beginnings, he would bounce material off her and she would help him write. Eventually, their marriage dissolved as his success and career took off, she seems not to be bitter about it though, she comes across as someone who still holds Robin dear to her.
Robin was a very quiet person off stage, many people said you’d never believe the transformation that would occur on vs off stage, he was almost an entirely different person. Robin was always sort of a lonely soul, those who can feel isolated in a room full of people. Many think that it was the depression that made him reach for people in the way that he did, laughter can be greatly therapeutic and Robin was phenomenal at getting a crowd to laugh.
This was a goodbye to a giant in the industry, and I think this documentary was meant to give him a fond farewell, so although they touched on things like his womanizing, it was done lightly and the sordid details were left out. They did, however, go into some detail about his drug use and addiction problems, highlighting that he was at the party where Belushi overdosed and died. The aftermath of his overdose affected Robin deeply and he actually cleaned up his act for a little while.
I learned a lot from this documentary, there’s far too much to try and summarize it all. Lots of people talked about their experiences with Robin, many of them so light-hearted and funny. I got some serious laughs out of this and also many moments of sadness learning about his struggles, and his eventual loss with his battle with depression. It’s almost 2 hours long, so it’s very thorough, almost everything you’d really want to know about his claim to fame and bits of his personal life. Although sometimes his sense of comedy was a step too far for me, just too hyperactive and extreme, he was one of a kind and it’s depressing when I think I’ll never see a new Robin Williams movie.
My Rating: 8.5/10