October 2, 1991 -- ``The Fisher King'' is a modern, eccentric and imaginative retelling of the legend of the Holy Grail.
Coincidentally, director Terry Gilliam also directed another grail story, ``Monty Python and the Holy Grail,'' probably the best of the Python films. ``The Fisher King,'' however, unlike his previous effort, a hilarious farce, this film has a serious side.
The story revolves around a strange little man, Parry, played by Robin Williams, who lives in a fantasy world to escape the painful memories of the murder of his wife. Jeff Bridges plays Jack, a burned-out radio talk show host who feels responsible for the murder of Parry's wife because of something he said on the radio to the murderer.
Chance brings Parry and Jack together and from that time onward, their lives change as Jack tries to help Parry attain the woman he has admired from afar, the wacky Lydia, played by Amanda Plummer. Jack's girlfriend, played by Mercedes Ruehl tries to hang onto Jack as she sees him slipping away, once again becoming successful, and callous.
The performances in the film are wonderful. Williams is perfectly cast as the mad knight Parry and Bridges is great as the self-centered jerk who turns out to have a heart of gold. Ruehl and Plummer are both excellent in their supporting roles.
Gilliam and Williams combine to bring a lot of craziness to the screen. Surrealistic visions of demonic fire-breathing knights on horseback and Williams' frenetic personality add much to the comic and mythic aspects of the film.
The underlying theme to the film, is however, very serious. The search for the grail itself proves to be the path to redemption for Jack and healing for Parry.
Some critics have found fault with the ending of the film, saying it is ``tacked on.'' That is not true, the ending contains an essential element of the Grail myth and it wraps up the underlying conflicts of the film in a very neat and satisfying manner. To end the story without the hero actually seeking the Grail would be unthinkable.
What I found lacking in the film, however, was a proper motivation for Jack's actions near the end of the film. After seemingly losing interest in the plight of Parry, he suddenly decides to risk everything to help him. The reason for his change of heart is not convincing. The film also seems to run out of gas about three-quarters of the way along, but recovers its pace near the end.
Gilliam should be given credit for doing a better job than he has in past films of keeping ``The Fisher King'' under control. This film showcases his daring and imagination as a filmmaker without becoming too busy and frantic.
The film's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. It rates a B.
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