[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope: Awakenings

Awakenings is Oscar material

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

February 20, 1991 -- ``Awakenings'' may not be the best picture of the year but the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences thought it was one of the top five movies of the year.

``Awakenings'' is a tragic story along the same lines as ``Charly.'' The difference is that in ``Charly'' Cliff Robertson played a retarded man who becomes a genius due to a wonder drug and then reverts to his original state, while Robert DeNiro in ``Awakenings'' plays a human vegetable who becomes normal and then once again slowly withers away back to his original state.

It looks like this film could land DeNiro an Oscar just as Robertson did in ``Charly.'' It is a wonderful role and it allows him to portray a character with whom the audience can sympathize, an unusual choice for him. DeNiro often portrays hard-edged distasteful men such as he did in his Oscar-winning portrayal of prizefighter Jake LaMotta in ``Raging Bull.''

DeNiro plays the part of a boy whose mind went to sleep when he was 11. He wakes up 30 years later because of an effect of the drug L-Dopa, administered by a doctor played by Robin Williams.

Williams tucks away his madcap personality and gives a very low-key performance as the painfully shy doctor. DeNiro is sensational as a man who is at first overwhelmed at the joy of living and then becomes paranoid when he starts losing control of his body.

Unlike ``Charly,'' which was based on the science-fiction story ``Flowers for Algernon,'' ``Awakenings'' is based on a true story. Like the book on which it was based ``Awakenings'' tries to bring across the point that we should all learn to better appreciate the beauty and wonder of everyday life.

It does not make the point very well, relying largely on a single speech to deliver the message rather than actions. What I found fascinating in the movie is the nature of the disease affecting the patient and how Williams worked with the patients to come up with clues to try to solve the riddle of the strange malady.

The movie works as a detective story and as a semi-documentary on one of the most unusual and fascinating diseases ever diagnosed. Both DeNiro and Williams are excellent and director Penny Marshall came close to being nominated for best director, she would have been the first woman to receive the honor.

On a scale of one to 10 this film rates a seven.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]  
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
    [Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)