Saturday, March 7, 2015
(December 1998, U.S.)
It's been more than six months since Robin Williams' death and I'm still not over it. Despite whatever uncontrollable medical reasons of his depression that inevitably lead to his suicide, I still can't seem to comprehend how someone with such a miraculous gift for laughter and making people happy could leave this world...and leave me! Did I just really say something so unreasonable? You bet your ass I did! In an irrational way, I can't help but feel that Robin Williams personally left ME, as well as so many others, because for me, his existence in this world made a difference to my world, and now that difference is gone. It's somehow a very strange twist of irony that PATCH ADAMS begins with Williams' character of Hunter "Patch" Adams experiencing a severe case of depression and checking himself into a psychiatric clinic after a suicide attempt. It's also a stranger case of irony that "Patch" Adams entire message throughout the film is not only the medical healing power of laughter, but also the manner in which Adams himself overcomes his own depression by experiencing the joy of bringing happiness and comfort to others. I can't help but ask myself why, oh why, Robin Williams himself couldn't hold onto that idea when it came to battling his own demons. I'm not a doctor, so I can't possibly be expected to understand the medical implications and chemical imbalances that ultimately drive one to take their own life. Still, I loved Robin Williams and I suppose my anger and confusion in losing him is never going to fully be explained or ever fully go away.
Even as the film begins, somehow the thought of Robin Williams in a mental institution is going to be an experience that's a lot more fun and amusing that say, Jack Nicholson in a mental institution in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975). In other words, if you think crazy already when you're locked up, you're bound to be just a little more nuts after you've been with any character Williams is playing. I suppose in his realization that there are some patients in that place that are a lot worse off than he is, it makes the ability to help them a lot more obvious and a lot more rewarding. By the film's account (based on a true story, by the way), it's this new-found ability that leads Adams to his desire to become a doctor of medicine. Once inside the walls of medical school, that's when the fun and chaos begins, Robing Williams' style! From the get go, Adams is a clown and an anarchist, but all in the name of providing joy and laughter to those in the hospital who need it most. Mind you, though, Adams may be a clown, but he's no idiot. Without even needing to study very much, his grade are among the highest in the school and that seems to piss off many of his colleagues to no end! Adams is no rogue, either. He encourages other medical students to work with him and to also work closely with nurses, learn interviewing skills early, and argues that the inevitable outcome of death should be treated with dignity and sometimes even humor, rather than coldness and heartlessness. Like any renegade force in any film where the protagonist is trying to make a difference against the system, the efforts eventually begin to take with those who also want to see change. And like any situation as such, there's always at least one person who will go out of their way to make sure our hero doesn't succeed in breaking the rules and getting what he wants, and that's just what we can expect from the medical school's dean (played by the always-not-so-pleasant Bob Gunton).
The film also makes a little time for Adams to have a love interest in a bitter young woman named Carin Fisher (played by Monica Potter) whose only purpose there is to study and have barely any human contact at all. Still, how long can you be in the presence of "Patch" Adams and not eventually give in to your own feelings of joy, even when your deep-rooted problems are due to the fact that you've been repeatedly molested by men since you were a little girl. I suppose even a heartbreaking case such as that proves even further Adams philosophy that you can overcome your own personal demons by reaching out and making others happy (again, I ask in vain, why couldn't Robin Williams himself had held onto that philosophy just a little longer!). Still, Carin is a doomed cause from the beginning because even as she starts to come out of her shell and break down the walls of her emotions, she's viciously murdered by a mentally ill man whom she was reaching out to help, based on Adams' teachings. Yes, even the best of intentions can get you killed with the wrong sort of person! But again, in a film like this, adversaries and tragedies are meant to be overcome by the triumph of will, the healing power of laughter and the determination of conclusion (in this case, a free medical clinic that Adams is determined to build)...and again I say...laughter that's all Robin Williams' style!
PATCH ADAMS, despite doing great box office business, didn't do too well with critics at all (these so-called professional film journalists just don't know dick sometimes!) and I simply can't imagine why! This is one of Williams' finest roles and greatest performances since DEAD POET'S SOCIETY (1989), in my opinion. Like so many films prior and since, the humanity this man brings to the screen in a world that is filled with so little humanity is nothing short of refreshing and joyous to experience. We laugh, of course, but we feel, too. And sometimes when we live in a world that is filled with a cynical inability to feel, such experiences on the big screen are a huge compensation. When we feel it with someone like Robin Williams, the compensation is even greater. Now he's gone and that compensation will never be the same.
Favorite line or dialogue:
"Patch" Adams: "Hi. Patch Adams."
Mitch Roman: "Mitch Roman. Georgetown University. I was awarded the William F. Thompson Scientific Achievement Award."
"Patch" Adams: "Mmm. Emerson Elementary. I once drew a picture of a rabbit that got me two gold stars."