What was the first Robin Williams film you thought of the moment you heard that he had passed? Toys? Flubber? Hook? Death to Smoochy? Maybe it wasn’t even a film at all; maybe it was one of his legendary stand-up sessions, or his unforgettable appearance on Inside the Actors Studio. Maybe it was a film where you didn’t even see his real face most of the time (if ever), like Mrs. Doubtfire or Aladdin. Or maybe it was one where you saw more of Robin’s character, as opposed to his humorous facade, like Good Will Hunting or Dead Poet’s Society.
Robin Williams was a magical man, and his death felt like the biggest punch to the gut. Most of us immediately thought or hoped that it was a hoax, and yet were desperately disappointed to check our newsfeeds and see “Robin Williams Dead in Apparent Suicide” from credible sources, like Entertainment Weekly and People.
It’s moments like these, when we lose someone who felt like family, when we wish we could all be preserved in film, because whenever you need a simultaneous good laugh and good cry (sometimes related), just pick a Robin Williams clip at random and you’re probably in for both.
With Mrs. Doubtfire, we saw Williams in all of his zany glory, whether he was doing “voices,” singing about a raptor, ratting out a “run-by fruiting” or shoving his face into a cake to preserve his “identity.”
With Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, we saw what probably made his wives fall in love with him. Sure, most women love a great sense of humor, but in Society’s John Keating, we saw a sparkle in his eye that hinted at the sensitivity that lay just beneath, that vulnerable layer that he covered up in his other work with his comedy. And Hunting’s Sean Maguire expanded on that. Keating was the young man who attracted the wife, and Maguire was the sweet older man who still waxed poetic about her decades later.
With Aladdin, we got zany Williams again, though he proved that despite being a veritable firecracker on the stage, all he really needed was his voice (or many voices) to entertain us. Sure, the Genie had his sensitive moments - after all, it was a Disney movie - but there was just a certain magic that Williams could bring to any role, and it was never more evident than it was when you removed his essence from his physical presence.
With Jumanji, we got both the sensitive and comical sides of Williams, though the latter was certainly toned down. In Alan Parrish, we saw the tortured soul of a child who was trapped in a board game for years (an allegory perhaps of Williams potentially feeling tortured and trapped within the confines of his depression), as well as his kooky side that was more obviously an attempt to cover up his pain, as well as his palpable desperation to get back to the time in which he belonged.
Hearing that Williams was suffering the onset of Parkinson’s disease somehow made his suicide a little less senseless, but it certainly didn’t make it any less sad. Without Williams, not only is the world less funny, but it also lost a good-sized chunk of its boyish and sensitive heart.