Robin Williams – (1951 – 2014)

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I toyed with writing this piece today. Hesitated because I didn’t want a surge of traffic in the sense that folks would feel I was exploiting a sad situation. However, this man played such a pivotal role in my growing up, in my love for movies and in my ability to make people laugh that I felt I had to say something.

I think the first movie I ever remember seeing that starred Robin Williams was Hook. It amazed me and Robin was perfectly cast as an adult Peter Pan. If you’re going to travel to a magical land then you need someone magical to take you there, and Robin Williams was a kind of magic. He had the ability to always make people smile, to light up a room and instantly turn the mundane into the spectacular. All this I got from just seeing him on screen. I never knew him personally, but his passing has left such a weight in my heart that I find it hard to breathe. It’s like losing a relative, and that is no exaggeration. I too suffer with depression so I have some inkling as to what this wonderful man went through. I just hope that he now has the peace in death that he never had in life. God bless you mate, you will be greatly missed.

JM

The Birdcage (1996)

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Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) is the owner of The Birdcage, one of the hottest clubs on Miami Beach. His partner Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane) is the star attraction of the club. Their lives are thrown into disarray when Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman), tells his father that he’s getting married…to a woman! Val is getting married to Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart), daughter of Senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman). There is however one problem. Barbara’s parents don’t know Val’s dad is gay, and are already embroiled in a scandal.

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Val decides it would be best to keep Albert offside, whilst Barbara and her parents visit. However when Armand realises that doing that would hurt Albert’s feelings, he decides on a plan b. One that causes all sorts of hilarious mishaps. Together with their overly camp housekeeper Agador (Hank Azaria), they all put a plan together to make sure the meeting goes smoothly.

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I just love this movie. It is a remake of the French movie ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ (1978), which has a very similar set-up. I have never seen the original, but this version is hilarious. Nathan Lane steals the show as Albert. Bringing heart, warmth and humour to what could have been a very one dimensional role in the hands of another actor. Gene Hackman is fantastic as the ‘ultra-conservative’ Senator Keeley. He plays the serious, straight lace stiff to perfection, and you can tell he’s having a blast. Robin Williams is also fabulous as Armand. You can tell he really loves Albert and will do anything to see that he feels accepted by the Keeley family. He really is a joy to behold.

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Hank Azaria is fantastically funny as Agador, trying to play it straight when the Keeley’s arrive. Being that the story is centred around Val and Barbara, both Calista Flockhart and Dan Futterman feel wasted. I don’t know whether that’s down to their characters being badly written, or the fact that they just aren’t very good actors. Both fail to breathe any sort of life into their roles. Like I said, I really enjoy this film, and it never fails to brighten my day. Well worth a watch.

5/5

JM

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