Episode 11: Hook

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The recent death of Robin Williams came as a shock to everyone.  It was especially shocking to us, as just days before Williams’ death, we recorded this episode on Hook. Though we couldn’t have known what would happen, we are glad that we had so recently been able to discuss and celebrate Williams through his work in this film.  There is no shortage of material on Williams this week, some of it sincere and meaningful, some of it capitalizing on the inevitable fascination with the details.

Please be assured that this film was chosen weeks ago and we recorded it before (albeit a mere two days) his tragic death.  It is not a crass attempt at clickbaiting, it is a genuinely thoughtful discussion of a film that has meant a lot to us since we first saw it as children.

In fact, this may be a tremendously fitting film to watch as one remembers Williams.  If you were a child who grew up with Hook, it is a great reminder of the impact Williams had on you and will immediately recall just what it is about him that is so touching.  If you haven’t seen it, or weren’t a child in 1991, this movie is a great example of Williams ability to pull ethos and humor from a character that could have been flat and uninspired.

It might be difficult, in hindsight, to see Williams so ably play a character who has lost sight of his happy thoughts, but it is also especially poignant to watch how beautifully Williams performs the scenes where he discovers what makes him happy.  It’s a reminder to all of us that it is never too often, too late, or too trite to think about what makes us happy and to appreciate those people in our lives who make life “the only adventure worth living.”

It struck both of us, that as people paid tribute to Williams, many people our age mentioned Hook as one of the movies that impacted them.  This movie may not have critical acclaim, but there is something about this movie in particular that comforts and enthralls, and we were delighted to revisit it.

As Nate mentions in the beginning of the episode, there may be aspects of our conversation that strike listeners as insensitive, in light of what has occurred this week. In particular, there is a part where we discuss a scene in which Hook threatens suicide and it is played for humor.  In our discussion we are talking only about how the scene works in the film and are in no way making light of suicide or the agony that can lead a person to that point.

RIP Robin Williams

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Various news sources have reported that Robin Williams was found dead today at the age of 63.  In a statement, his publicist said that the Academy Award winning actor and comedian “passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late.  This is a tragic and sudden loss.”  

Robin Williams has been an endearing and comforting screen presence for Nate and me our entire lives.  From the comedies of our childhoods to the powerful dramatic side of his work that we discovered as teens and young adults, Robin Williams was not only a brilliant and versatile performer, he was also a warm and fascinating presence who made the world fun and made exploring the zaniest regions of our imaginations seem like the most natural thing a human could do.

His roles in Hook and Mrs. Doubtfire, while perhaps not his most critically acclaimed, burn brightly in the memories of almost everyone our age.  In Williams’ hands, the roles moved beyond simple rehashing of a trope (in Hook) and mindless chaos (in Mrs. Doubtfire), and became early examples of how sometimes adults need to go to great lengths to right their wrongs.  Williams was adept at balancing his frenetic comic sensibilities with deep emotion simply expressed.  His work as Genie in Alladin not only stole the show, but gave me my first introductions to some important cultural hallmarks, including Ed Sullivan and Rodney Dangerfield, all of whom I still filter through Robin Williams’ impressions whenever I encounter them.

Williams was as willing to take risks in his more dramatic work as he was in his comedic roles.  Though he won his Oscar for his work in Good Will Hunting, his performances in The Fisher King, One Hour Photo, and Dead Poets Society are personal favorites, with Williams’ uncanny ability to restrain his electric persona to great effect.  His characters felt deeply, and let us know that it was safe for us to feel deeply too.

The circumstances of his death are especially difficult to grasp given Williams ability to find comedy in everything.  Taking cues from his mentor and idol, Johnathan Winters, Williams always seemed to be thinking several minutes ahead of everyone around him, always ready with three or four jokes before most other people had even thought of one (watch two and a half minutes of unmatchable brilliance from his appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio).  Even still, he was a generous performer with a deep appreciation and passion for improv, and, by all accounts, a warm and generous person.

Williams will be deeply missed.