'Fisher King' is a bizarre and touching movie


September 27, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

"THE FISHER King" plays, part of the time, as though it were shot in a revolving door. It also wanders all over the place and is perhaps too long for its own good, but if you stick with it (some people did walk out midway), you won't be sorry.

You should, in fact, be extremely pleased that you remained with the film, remained long enough to come away with the impression that this is a bizarre, hilarious and very touching film.

If one word can be used to describe it, it is sweet. Another is chaotic, but then it was directed by Terry Gilliam, former member of the Monty Python group, a man who has already established a reputation for doing different films ("Time Bandits," "Brazil," "Baron Munchausen").

And the performances? Well, they are only excellent. It is no surprise that Robin Williams can handle this sort of role, which he does, without flaw. Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, is something of a surprise. As a burned out radio talk-show host (fashioned after Morton Downey Jr.) he is required to do some heavier work, heavier than most of what he has done, and he does extremely well.

We also have Amanda Plummer as a ditsy office worker who becomes the object of Parry's affections. Parry (Williams) is a street person. He had been a yuppie but went a little mad when his wife was murdered by a madman who entered a restaurant and killed a number of people.

The radio man feels partly responsible. The killer had called his show, and the host was more flip than helpful.

Plummer, a difficult person to use, is perfectly cast in this instance. As the steno, she is immensely funny and extremely vulnerable. When she speaks of the men who have come her way, as one-night stands, she says, "You say you'll call, but you won't, and the next day, I will feel marvelous until the hours move along, and then I will begin to feel like dirt."

Parry may not be the man of her dreams, but he does love her, is good to her and does intend to call the next day.

There is also Mercedes Ruehl as the woman who loves Bridges and wonders when the devil he is going to declare himself. If Ruehl was wasted in the very recent "Another You," she is definitely not wasted in this film.

There are stand-out scenes. In one, the four principal characters eat Chinese, and in another, a gay street person (Michael Jeter) does Ethel Merman when he pretends to be a message bearer. If you don't laugh at another thing this year, you will laugh at this, and it is not because Gilliam is being condescending. He is not.

As the film reaches conclusion, Bridges dresses as a crusader and steals a cup from the home of a very wealthy man. This is a little overdone, but remember, this is Gilliam, who once did a Python film about the search for the Holy Grail.

"The Fisher King," in which Williams and Bridges meet when Bridges makes the mistake of wandering into an area where punks prey on street people, is a mix of pathos, sentimentality, goodness, badness and just a dash of fantasy. When Williams hallucinates, he sees a creature on horseback, a psychedelic knight off his course but quite meaningful to the man who sees him.

If you want to know how all this works, see the film, and don't be too quick to give up on it.

3' "The Fisher King" opens here today.

"The Fisher King"

*** A former radio talk-show host meets a demented street person, with whom he has a most tragic connection.

CAST: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, Mercedes Ruehl

DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam

RATING: R (language, violence)

) RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes

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