Tuesday, 18 September 2012

FILM REVIEW

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and The Birdcage (1996)

A couple of comedies for this Tuesday's edition of Overlooked/Forgotten Films and Television at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom. Don't forget to check out the other fascinating reviews over there.

Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams): Could you make me a woman?
Frank (Harvey Fierstein): Honey, I'm so happy!
Daniel: I knew you'd understand.


What is it about some films that make you want to see them again and again (assuming you do watch a film more than once)? 

What usually inspires me to watch a film twice, maybe more than twice, is the entertainment value, the family quotient, good humour, great music, familiar cast, sound performance, a terrific script…you can toss and turn the order if you like. Mrs. Doubtfire scores on all seven fronts.


Now Robin Williams is a damned good actor and yet I don’t like him in some of his films because he clearly overdoes the acting bit. He’s loud and all over the place. What do you expect? He’s a comedian! Yes, I know. Maybe that’s why I like him more in Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, The Final Cut, Jack…and even Bicentennial Man. I mean we’re not talking Jumanji here, are we? (That one’s for kids…I saw it seven times.)

Whatever…I prefer Robin Williams the actor to Robin Williams the comedian, though I’m willing to make an exception or two—the exceptions being Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and The Birdcage (1996).

Assuming you haven’t seen the second, Mike Nichols, who made The Graduate (1967) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), has done the world of film entertainment and film goers a big favour by bringing Robin Williams, a fun-loving gay cabaret owner, and Gene Hackman, a senator with serious political aspirations, together, in a film that will have you holding your sides. The ebullient Williams and the deadpan Hackman are a rare treat as is the incorrigible Nathan Lane who makes every drag queen proud with his…her….his…well-disguised performance. Actors Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart and Christine Baranski add value to this delightful comedy for the entire family.
 


We owe Mike Nichols for making The Birdcage, one of the funniest movies of the 1990s. There, I have put my head on the block.

In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams gives “versatility” a new meaning as the old Chris Columbus hand effortlessly transforms from Daniel Hillard, the just-divorced doting father of three, to Mrs. Doubtfire, the perfect housekeeper to “her” kids—with hilarious consequences. Now you don’t need visitation rights to be with your own kids, do you? All you need is acting skill, a bloody good disguise, a little sophistication, and some funny lines.

Did you know her first name is Euphegenia? Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire…I didn’t catch that even on the eleventh run.

Daniel’s wife Miranda (Sally Field), who struggles to look and sound angry at her out-of-work husband, has a fling with the dashing Stu Denmeyer (Pierce Brosnan) in a passable attempt to get on with her life. Of Brosnan it must be said, here is a gent who can carry humour on his broad shoulders. In the end Daniel wins back his kids, shows Stu the door (in the middle of a family dinner in a restaurant) and proves he is not the loser Miranda thinks he is.

A Robin Williams film can only have a good ending and Mrs. Doubtfire nearly does, albeit with a liberal dose of advice for families that break up. As Mrs. Doubtfire says, “If there's love, dear... those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever.”

Highly recommended, if you’ve overlooked or forgotten the film, though I doubt you have. 

While we are on about Mrs. Doubtfire, did you know Bollywood, the land of remakes, came out with a successful Hindi version of the film called Chachi 420 (Aunty 420 or The Trickster Aunt)? Seasoned actor-director Kamal Hassan directed himself in this 1997 film.











Spot the difference: Mrs. Doubtfire and Laxmi Godbole 



11 comments:

  1. Nicely put. I'm not one to watch any movie more than once, but I make an exception for GROUNDHOG DAY. I'm wondering if a Bollywood remake of that would make any sense there.

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    1. Thanks, Ron. I saw GROUNDHOG DAY a long time ago and I recall the film on account of Bill Murray and Harold Ramis who starred in that silly but enjoyable film GHOSTBUSTERS. Ramis is a good director and I quite liked his ANALYSE THAT. I'm not sure Bollywood has made a remake of GROUNDHOG DAY but then the Hindi film industry is notorious for all kinds of remakes and actually doing well at the box office.

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  2. I enjoyed Mrs. Doubtfire very much but I loved, just loved the Bollywood version!

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    1. Mystica, MRS. DOUBTFIRE was certainly entertaining with all the actors, including the kids, playing their part well. Kamal Hassan hit the jackpot with CHACHI 420 that did well at the Indian box office.

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  3. I really really like Mrs. Doubtfire. The Bird cage was OK, but Mrs. Doubtfire was just up and up hilarious.

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    1. Ditto, Charles. I never get tired of watching MRS. DOUBTFIRE and consider it one of the great entertainers of the 1990s. Nearly every line in the film had you in splits.

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  4. I remember liking MRS DOUBTFIRE a lot and not finding it too sentimental, which is the thing I dislike about a lot of Williams' films (I love JUMANJI - fantastic movie). On the other hand I remember hating THE BIRDCAGE - not just because the origiginal French version was so much funnier but because, despite the technical polish and the top notch cast, I was stunned by how conventional I found it, espousing a remarkably reactionary agenda but masquerading as a progressive comedy. That is probably a bit harsh but hey, I absolutely agree with 50% of your post!

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    1. Great going, Sergio! MRS. DOUBTFIRE was a riot. I thought it was a well-made comedy. I wonder if it might be Williams' best offering yet. You're not alone in disliking THE BIRDCAGE — a couple of my friends in Bombay didn't care for it either. I liked the film, though, because of the two stark opposites in the form of Williams and Hackman and, of course, the irrepressible Nathan Lane. I don't think your views are "harsh" and I welcome them, one way or the other, because you have an informed opinion on films that I respect.

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  5. I'm the opposite of Serfio. I liked THE BIRDCAGE but disliked MRS. DOUBTFIRE - never bought Robin Williams as a woman for a single minute - though I'm not sure we're supposed to. But boy that makes Sally Field seem a simpleton.

    In The Birdcage, I love 'the look' of Robin Williams as the mature half of a gay couple. Nathan Lane is over the top, but Robin reels him in.

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    1. Yvette, finally someone who liked THE BIRDCAGE! A pity you didn't like MRS. DOUBTFIRE, though. I liked Robin Williams in this film, probably more than in any other film of his. He completely overshadows Sally Field but then this is his film from start to finish. Nathan Lane, I thought, was superb as the gay fella who is forced to play "mother" to Williams' son in front of Hackman and his wife. I enjoyed both the films.

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  6. Oops, I meant: Sergio. Sorry guys.

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