Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer
Released: September 27, 1991
Best Actor - Robin Williams (lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Supporting Actress - Mercedes Ruehl (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Richard LaGravenese (lost to Callie Khouri for Thelma and Louise)
Best Art Direction/Set Direction (lost to Bugsy)
The only thing I knew about this movie before watching it was that it starred Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams and was directed by Terry Gilliam. Knowing that, I knew I was in for an unusual movie since the (few) Terry Gilliam movies I've seen tend to be on the eccentric side. The Fisher King was no exception; it was a very odd movie. It's not quite all set in fantasy, but it's not all set in reality, either. The movie starts fairly normally. Jeff Bridges plays Jack Lucas, a radio personality who was clearly modeled after Howard Stern. He is very crude and arrogant and tells it like it is, with his catchphrase being, "Forgive me!" Inadvertently, he is responsible for the murder of seven people at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan when he tells a recurring caller that he will never be good enough to be seen with the yuppies who frequent it. When he sees this on the news, he knows it is the same guy who he told this to because they play the transcript of the conversation he had with him on the radio. This sends Jack into a spiral of depression and things haven't gotten any better three years later when the movie takes a time leap.
He has since quit his job at the radio station (I thought maybe he was fired, but I think he just quit as he does get an offer later in the movie to go back to work) and now works at a video rental store called Video Spot! (complete with the exclamation point) with his girlfriend, Ann (Mercedes Ruehl). Ah, remember the video rental places such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video? I still go to a local "video" rental place, but it's all DVDs....I remember when these places only had the video tapes like they do in this movie. The world was a very dark and dour time before DVDs and instant streaming were invented. Jack, still depressed and on the bottle a little too much decides to end it one night when he goes to kill himself by jumping into the river after a drunken binge, but is stopped by two thugs who think he's homeless and aren't happy he's in their territory, so they throw gasoline on him. This is when Jack meets Parry (Robin Williams), a true homeless man who, along with his other homeless friends, attack the two young thugs (and also treat them to an impromptu Broadway show by singing, "I like New York in June, how about you?") It is a very odd scene to say the least. Parry manages to scare the two thugs away and Jack sleeps off his drunken state in the basement of an old building where Parry crashes. It is clear that Parry is mentally unstable and Jack just wants to get out of these. On the way out, the landlord tells him that Parry isn't allowed to have visitors and lets him stay in the basement out of the goodness of his heart because of the tragedy. Jack queries about that and learns that Parry lost his wife in the restaurant where the massacre happened three years ago. He immediately feels guilty and wonders, why, out of all the people in New York, he had to meet a man whose wife he had inadvertently killed.
When Jack returns home, his girlfriends asks where he was all night, thinking he was cheating on her. He tells her pretty much the whole truth, saying he was attacked, but leaves out the part where he was about to commit suicide before he was attacked. Ann tells him that if he's not happy with her, he doesn't have to douse himself with gasoline and beat himself up just to get away from her.
Parry is on a mission to find the Holy Grail, which he believes to be housed in a castle-like residence and wants Jack to help him get it. Feeling guilty and responsible for Parry's life, Jack decides to help him. He also learns that Parry used to be a college professor named Henry Sagan and after his wife was murdered right in front of him (of which we see the flashback of and it is an especially brutal scene), he went into a catatonic state. When he woke up, he became the alter ego of Parry and became obsessed with finding the Holy Grail and with the story of the Fisher King. Jack decides not to only help Parry with this, but with also helping Parry get the attention of a woman he's smitten with (Amanda Plummer). Parry knows everything about her because he follows her every day (which is a little creepy). There's one particularly funny scene that made me laugh out loud when the woman is eating at a Chinese restaurant and Parry takes Jack right up to the window where a couple are dining next to inside and keep looking at the two grown men right by the window looking in and Jack yells at them, "Yes, we're looking through the window!" There's also a scene, which I'm sure has to be the most famous from the movie, where Parry is following her in Grand Central Station and then everybody starts waltzing and the train station becomes a grand ballroom. Jack learns that her name is Lydia and finds out where she works and calls her with the disguise that she's won a free membership at the Video Spot! store. He pretends to have Parry working there so he can meet her when she comes in.
The four main characters end up having dinner at a Chinese restaurant (since Parry knows Lydia likes Chinese food) and this is my favorite scene in the movie. It's a bit of a montage where we see Lydia, who is a complete klutz, drop her food, nearly knock over everyone's food and just has about near disasters as the others are trying to keep her from causing any more damage. Ann confides in Jack that Parry and Lydia are perfect for each other and she is right because Lydia is quite quirky herself, an oddball like Parry. They are both so socially awkward, that they really are perfect for each other.
Parry slips back into his catatonic state after he walks past the restaurant where his wife was murdered and has a horrible flashback. Jack thinks the only thing that will snap him out of this will be to retrieve the Holy Grail that Parry has been obsessed over.
It is a very odd, quirky movie, but of all the (few) Terry Gilliam movies I've seen, I would say it's my favorite movie of his, but like I said, I haven't seen that many movies he's directed because the movies he makes aren't really my taste. Since Mercedes Ruehl won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this, I wanted to watch this for my ten movie review of 1991. Speaking of which, we're almost to the end! So far, I've reviewed:
2. Boyz n the Hood
3. My Girl
5. Father of the Bride
6. Sleeping with the Enemy
7. City Slickers
8. Point Break
9. The Fisher King
I have only one left and I think we all know what movie that's going to be! There were a lot of '91 movies I could have chosen, so I will just have to review those movies later; just because I did a special dedication to that year doesn't mean that all movies from 1991 are off the (review) table forever!