Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Final Cut - RIP, Robin Williams 1951-2014

In my mind, Robin Williams was one of the funniest people to come along in my lifetime. Thus, I find it kind of strange that my favorite film of his, The Final Cut, is not a comedy. Robin Williams' almost stream of consciousness tangential brand of comedy, was rarely seen in his film roles, with the notable exception of Disney's Aladdin, where he improvised much of the Genie dialog. On film, he was very good as a serious actor, odd for a person as funny as he was in front of a microphone doing standup.

The Final Cut is a serious science fiction movie. Now, one of my big gripes about what passes for Sci-Fi movies these days is that most of them are just action movies set in space and/or the future. These movies could just as easily be turned into straight action movies by removing the space/future elements, and they'd work just as well. That's not the case for The Final Cut, If you tried to remove the Sci-Fi, you wouldn't have a story anymore. It is a very good story, but I'll keep the spoilers down to the bare minimum for those who haven't seen it yet.

Any potential spoilers are contained in the following paragraph
In an alternate present, some people have memory implants, for the sake of making what amounts to a video of their lives for presentation to friends and family after death at the funeral/memorial service. Robin Williams is a cutter, one of the technicians who edit people's lives into a fitting tribute. Because of a dark past, he takes the work that nobody else wants, the people, who like him, conceal dark secrets. That's probably all you need to know about the story. 
End of spoilers

Oh, there's way more to it than that. It's all about the political, legal, and sociological implications of having your life as well as the lives of those around you recorded. All of the various plot details are logical and well thought out and force you to examine what are the meanings of things, like memories and privacy and human rights.

Whenever I watch The Final Cut, I get lost in the story, so much so, I often fail to notice just how good Robin Williams is. I mean it's a very demanding role, and never, not for a second, do I not believe him. He melts into the tortured character he is playing. When he plays anguish, I believe it. When he plays relief, I believe it. When he plays fear, I believe it. While watching the movie just now, I was wondering if anyone could have played this part as well. Possibly, but could anyone have played it better. No, absolutely not.

The Final Cut is great movie. It's science fiction in the best sense of the term. There are virtually no special effects. It explores an aspect of technology, but instead of dwelling on the technology itself, it focuses on the human interaction with it. It's a complicated story full of interesting ideas that tap into the gamut of human emotions, and throughout, Robin Williams is brilliant.

When I think of Robin Williams, I will always think first of his brilliant humor, the improvisational madness that made his standup comedy unlike anything we had ever seen before. But then I will think of the actor, the actor who took the craft of acting very serious. Even in a comedy like The Bird Cage or Mrs. Doubtfire, he realized that the humor didn't come from being funny but from being real and having the humor of the situation or the wit of the character do the humor. As a comic, he was brilliant. As an actor, he was equally brilliant.  He will be missed. RIP.

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