Robin Williams was larger than life—and death
Last Tuesday morning, social media was overcome with statements of broken hearts, all trying to grapple and express the tragedy the world was feeling over the death of Oscar-winning actor and hyperactive all-around funnyman, Robin Williams.
A series of famous film titles left behind by Williams took us down memory lane—“The World According to Garp,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Awakenings,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Jumanji,” “What Dreams May Come,” “Good Will Hunting,” etc.
It was noticeable how many of his movies transmitted messages of struggle with hope or oddity, making us feel as if we personally knew him and had suddenly lost a great friend.
“Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary,” John Keating (“Dead Poets Society”) told his students.
Daniel Hillard (“Mrs. Doubtfire”) taught the importance of family; Genie (“Aladdin”), the importance of freedom; Peter Pan (“Hook”), the importance of happy thoughts, and Dr. Patch Adams, the importance of laughter and creating a good quality of life!
It is apparent that Williams’ career choices showcased not only his limitless sense of humor, but also the kind of stories that set a high bar and put a premium on the complex art of living. It was as if he was all too aware of the little time he had in one lifetime, and consciously made an effort to take on characters that dared viewers to search for life’s true purpose.
In his most recent film, “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” Williams plays Henry Altmann, who is mistakenly told by a physician (Mila Kunis) that he has 90 minutes left to live. He tries to make amends with family members in the short time he has left and says in a message for his son, “They say love is pure and generous, but it’s not. Sometimes, it’s small and selfish.”
But, giving and selfless are the characteristics with which we’ve always witnessed Williams play his game of love, truth and dare with his performances. It’s ironic to realize that, despite his great success, he’s still a man who felt small amidst all of us. —Small enough to so quietly find his way out on his own.
Williams had been very open about his weaknesses and addictions while he was alive. He battled with drugs, alcoholism and depression.
In contrast to his skyrocketing multiple personas when guesting on late-night talk shows, Williams was able to open up with seriousness—and tenderness—whenever asked about his personal battles in interviews.
That was what made him so special as an actor—he made sure to face us with his humanity.
But, now, he had decided to face us permanently with the hardest reality of all—that he is not Peter Pan, and he cannot live forever. He is Genie, instead, who had done his work granting wishes and was ready to be free. We will continue to live with him in his movies, instead, for that was where he became our close friend.
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