The Anti-Establishment Actor

The Anti-Establishment Actor
Highlights

The Anti-Establishment Actor. Robin Williams, in an acting career spanning over three decades, potrayed several memorable roles. Mrs Doubtfire and John Keating stand head and shoulders above the others

Robin Williams, in an acting career spanning over three decades, potrayed several memorable roles. Mrs Doubtfire and John Keating stand head and shoulders above the others

The sad news of the death of a great actor Robin Williams and that too at a comparatively young age of 63 came as a surprise. Only a day later, we read of the death of yesteryear icon Lauren Becall at the ripe age of 89; she who paired with Humphrey Bogart in a number of films, especially the unforgettable “Casablanca”.

Williams, who acted in over 50 movies was supposed to be a great mimic, irreverent and inventive, much to the delight of his close circle of friends. But he was also anti-establishment. Greatly so!

We shall here deal with only two of his vast body of work, “Dead Poets Society” (89) and “Mrs Doubtfire” (93) and for me “Dead Poet’s” stands head and shoulders above the others. As John Keating, rebel teacher at the elite Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville he was in the long line of unorthodox teachers like Maggie Smith in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and Sandy Dennis in “Up the Down Staircase.” Having around him a band of devoted students he asked them to call him “O Captain, my Captain” from the Walt Whitman poem.

Keating wanted his wards to think for themselves and not blindly follow the written word and hence asked them tear out the “Introduction” page which he thought was quite meaningless. They formed what was secretly known as the Dead Poet’s Society. But this earned him the wrath of some of the parents. Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) is one of them and his differences with his dad led him to commit suicide.

The authorities then step in and tension builds up, Will the students stand by their rebel teacher ? Todd (Ethan Hawke in one of his early roles) is another who stands by his teacher. Director Peter Weir of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” fame has his audience in a trance from start to finish. His dovetailing of ideas is immaculate and is ably supported by superb performances by Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke.

“Dead Poets Society” is a real masterpiece.

In comparison “Mrs Doubtfire” pales but its anti-establishment mantra stands out loud and clear. As Daniel Hillard, Williams, a voice actor by profession, is rather lenient with his three children and this brings him in conflict with his more proper wife Miranda (Sally Field) and he is asked to keep away from them.

The only way out is to disguise himself as a Governess, Euphegenia Doubtfire. Funny, even hilarious, but the proof of the pudding is in its eating. Not that it is truly scrumptious (not after “Dead Poets Society”) but it has its moments with Williams enjoying himself in his new avatar but more important being with his children. All in all a pot-boiler but the point one is trying to make is that it is his anti-establishment mindset that eventually showed up in the end. Sad but true and none can doubt he is par excellence as a performer, Adieu Robin Williams. Or is it au revoir?

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