The Fisher King (1991)

A successful radio shock jock, Jack Lucas is a narcissist and loving it. But when his careless words push a loyal listener to his breaking point and into a killing spree, Jack’s life is suddenly drowned in guilt and whiskey.

After a failed suicide attempt, Jack is rescued by Parry, much to his chagrin. Parry informs Jack he’s God’s janitor, sent on a mission  to recover the holy grail from a billionaire recluse’s library. But he needs Jack’s help, because Jack is the chosen one. The floating fat people have spoken.

Jack also learns Parry’s wife was murdered in the killing spree he inadvertently instigated years before.

With redemption of soul and sanity at stake, Jack must help Parry reclaim the holy grail, and woo a woman who challenges even Parry’s definition of normal.


Uncle Ebert (my affectionate nickname for the famous critic Roger Ebert) has seriously disapproving comments about this movie. Mostly, Uncle Ebert seems to have a distaste for the disorganization. I tend to think it’s more of an ebb and flow.

You say potato.

I say we’re watching this story unfold through the eyes of the characters themselves. And honestly, truth is stranger than fiction.
And there is something meaningful, written well and played well.

Plus, it’s set in Manhattan, so it’s only fair that everybody be a little nuts. Also, taking into consideration not just the performances by Robin Williams and Amanda Plummer, the film’s score and director Terry Gilliam seem to point to the surreal atmosphere, which is partially a state of mind but also the external reality these characters are experiencing.
Uncle Roger was wrong.

The plot is a bit complicated, and Jack (Jeff Bridges) vies for the title of protagonist with Parry (Robin Williams). If it weren’t for the scenes with his girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl), the battle would end at stalemate. Also, there’s a nude scene. It’s brief, but I wanted to warn you because nobody wants to see that much Robin Williams. Yes, he can’t help but steal every scene.
Watch out for the “cloud busting” scene, which apparently has to be done in your birthday suit… which in William’s case, really is a suit. If you haven’t seen this movie already, you’ll see what I mean.

True to form, Williams steals the show, with his overtly boisterous improvisation. I’ll cede that argument to Uncle Ebert, even though the manic character couldn’t have been played better.

The symbolism might be overstated, but I relish those scenes. It just fits with Jack’s own cynical worldview and Parry’s insanity that these two men, having been pushed just a tad beyond their limits, and needing each other to salvage their will and wherewithal would share such a ludicrous, and meaningful experience. It’s for this reason that I can more than forgive the ebb and flow; it is a theme and I embrace it.

It also works too keep up the dramatic tension. In one moment the film is lighthearted and whimsical, the next it’s terrifying.

Okay, I might be polishing this up a bit. But really, the dramatic tension works in a very unique way.

It gets a bit corny in the end, a bit predictable. But, after all, there’s a reason that the anti-hero film movement with an aversion of the “hollywood happy ending” hasn’t turned out as many successes as the more predictable “guy marries girl, saves the world” flicks.

Once again, whether art reflects life or the other way around, is that what we really believe about life? Is life film noir?

…Not that this story is completely with out darkness.

Jack battles with his guilty conscience, loathing it because he must do more than assuage his guilt with booze. He has to become a new man, and sacrifice all that relished narcissism that catapulted him to wealth and fame.

Parry has the heart Jack needs, but even the most chivalrous man needs help facing his fears. One might wonder if in his heart of hearts, Parry new who Jack was, or if it really was the fat people that chose him.

Critics and movie goers generally agree, this is no rotten tomato. In case you haven’t already guessed, I recommend it. This is a story that is simple but profound in the message it brings, and even in its weirdness it’s beautiful.


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