Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Oddly watchable redemption movie.

Miserable radio talk-show host Jack(Jeff Bridges)'s careless talk on-air indirectly causes the death of several innocent people. Years later he encounters the bereaved Parry (Robin Williams) - who has literally gone mad as a knock-on result of his rashness - and finds himself compelled to repay the inferred debt.

Well, obviously that's impossible - he can hardly reanimate Parry's lost love from the dead. Where the film itself grows legs though is in its maturing from restitution to restoration.

There are great moments in this (especially the songs) and fine performances all round, despite Mercedes Ruehl as Jack's girlfriend Anne being the only performer to score a part that isn't a stereotype. As such, her rapport with Jack is a rare thing to find on film indeed - a relationship in which both sides get some detail.

Despite this, director Terry Gilliam's usual flair threatens to let him down here, as too-keen jump-cuts, impossible camera angles and pantomime characterisations all threaten to distract from such absorbing compelling storytelling.

I know it's preaching to the converted, but here is a fantastic long quote that I thought was just brilliant, on every level…

Parry: "It begins with the King as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become King. Now while he is spending the night alone he's visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the Holy grail, symbol of God's divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, "You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men." But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn't love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the King alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn't see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the King, "What ails you friend?" The King replied, "I'm thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat". So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the King. As the King began to drink, he realised his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the Holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, "How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?" And the fool replied, "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty."

(available here)


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