Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Growing up with Robin Williams

Image credit: fanpop.com

I was sipping coffee for breakfast when a breaking news flashed on the TV screen: Hollywood actor Robin Williams dead at 63.

I felt a jolt of hot liquid inside my throat because a hurriedly finish my cup, not minding if my tonsils will get 3rd degree burns, so I can reach out the remote control and increase the volume of the boob tube.

While listening to the confirmation of the authorities that the great funny one was indeed dead after committing suicide inside his home in California, I shed tears not because of a sore larynx but probably the connection I had with Williams growing up watching his films.

Call me a sentimental fool or what but he and his films for me are some of the best things that Hollywood gave to the world. I can still remember in the 80’s the amazement to see Popeye (1980) in a live action film; the contagious Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) spiel of the cool DJ Adrian Cronauer; and who can forget the wisdom of professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989).          

In the 90’s, Williams again proved that laughter is the best medicine in his remarkable performances as Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Awakenings (1990) and real-life Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams in Patch Adams (1998).  To some, he’ll be best remembered as the Genie in the animated film Aladdin (1992) or the android Andrew in Bicentennial Man (1999) or his Oscar-winning performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting (1997) but for me, he will always be Daniel Hillard aka Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire from what I considered my most favorite Robin Williams movie Mrs. Doubtfire (1993).

I was just a college freshman when I saw Robin William’s movie about a father who would do anything just to be with his kids.  Doing anything would mean disguising himself as an old lady to apply as a housekeeper to his ex-wife and three children.  With this simple premise, Mrs. Doubtfire became a box-office hit and was included in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 funniest movies of the 20th century. Last week, I was able to see the movie again over cable TV.

Incidentally, Marsha Garces, a Filipino American philanthropist and a former movie producer became Williams real-life wife while she's working as a nanny in the 80’s. It’s no surprise that Williams starred in all the three films she produced (Mrs. Doubtfire; Patch Adams; 1999’s Jakob the Liar).

Mrs. Doubtfire is very funny but heart-warming in so many ways.  The story evolves in the life of Daniel Hillard (Williams), an out-of-work voice actor.  His wife Miranda, played by the versatile actress Sally Field, has reached the end of her patience and decided to leave his irresponsible husband.  Since Daniel has no steady job, Miranda was forced to be the main breadwinner of the family.   Miranda gets primary custody of their three children while the court granted Daniel visitation rights limited to Saturday evenings because they find him unfit to be a father (which I think is one of the greatest insults one can hurl to any man)

When Daniel founds out that Miranda was looking for a housekeeper, he moved heaven and earth just to get the job.  With the help of his brother who is a professional make-up artist, Daniel was transformed into the 60-year old widow from England Mrs. Doubtfire who got the name from the news headline "Police Doubt Fire Was Accidental". 

The moment Mrs. Doubtfire set foot to the house of Miranda and the kids, it was the beginning of mischievous adventures of the family.  To add a little more spice to Mrs. Doubtfire’s dilemma, Miranda introduces her new boyfriend (Pierce Brosnan) to the family.  At this stage, Daniel would not only fight for quality time for his children but also for the right to be the person to whom the kids will look up to.  

In the end, Mrs. Doubtfire’s true identity was discovered.  This would lead to the tear-jearker court scenes where Daniel acts as his own attorney as he confessed why he disguised as Mrs. Doubtfire.  The judge, although feeling sympathy for Daniel, finds his behavior somewhat disturbing and awarded sole custody of their children to Miranda.  Daniel's visitation rights were also further restricted as the judge only allows him to see his kids with supervision from a court liaison.  Williams is one great comedian but in this movie, he proves to everyone that he can also make us cry.  You can feel his pain as a father trapped in his worst nightmare in this sequence in the film.

But as they say, time heals all wounds.  Miranda forgave Daniel of all his wrongdoings and decided to give him what a father longs and truly deserve--- the warm hugs and kisses of his children.  The film concludes with Daniel picking up his kids while Miranda is watching a TV show featuring advices to children of divorced parents, saying that no matter what type of family living arrangement children have, love will maintain the bond.

I just feel blessed that I have a loving wife and a adorable child in my life now that I vowed not to be in the situation that I’ll be forced to wear high heels just to see my son.  Let all fathers learn from Mrs. Doubtfire.  
And as the movie world is mourning to the loss of one of the greatest funny man who was able to conquer television, theatre and the silver screen with his wit, charm and humor, let us all be forever reminded that life must go one with a famous line delivered by Mrs. Doubtfire, But if there's love, dear, those are the ties that bind. And you'll have a family in your heart forever. All my love to you, poppet. You're going to be all right. Bye-bye.”

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