16 August 2014


Awakenings 1990
  • Director: Penny Marshall
  • Based on the book by Oliver Sacks
  • Cast: Robert de Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, John Heard, Penelope Ann Miller, Ruth Nelson, Max von Sydow, Peter Stormare, Mary Alice, Alice Drummond, Dexter Gordon
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Robert de Niro  Stardust, Extras, Flawless, Jackie Brown, Cop Land, Marvin’s Room, Heat, Frankenstein, Stanley and Iris, Brazil, Falling in Love, Deer Hunter, New York New York, 1900, Taxi Driver, Hi Mom!
    • Robin Williams – The Butler, Insomnia, Good Will Hunting, Hamlet, Hook, Fisher King, Dead Again, Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, The World According to Garp
    • Julie Kavner – Rhoda
    • John Heard   The Great Debaters, The Sopranos, O, Pollock, The Pelican Brief, Waterland, The Trip to Bountiful, After Hours
    • Penelope Ann Miller – The Artists, Carlito’s Way
    • Max von Sydow –  Utvandrarna, Invandrarna, Nybyggarna, Robin Hood, Shutter Island, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd, Voyage of the Damned, The Exorcist, Vargtimmen
    • Peter Stormare – The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassas, The Brothers Grimm, Dancer in the Dark, The Big Lebowski, Fargo
    • Mary Alice –  The Matrix Trilogy, Sunshine State, Malcolm X
    • Alice Drummond - Ghostbusters
    • Dexter Gordon – Around Midnight
    • Anne Meara – Reality Bites, ALF,and many other TV shows
  • Why? There is Parkinson’s disease in my family.
  • Seen:  Once before. Now August 15, 2014, in memory of Robin Williams
He’s a doctor who has never treated actual patients. He’s done research with earthworms, mostly. He gets a job in a clinic for the chronically ill.  MS. Tourette’s. Parkinson’s.  In 1969.  He can’t even communicate with them.
But he’s the profoundly kind Robin Williams. He has crazy ideas. The other doctors think he’s as crazy as the patients (who aren’t crazy either).  He performs miracles only to see them quickly fall apart.
I’m not going to tell you the story.  If you haven’t seen this film, see it.
It’s powerful. It’s painful to watch.  It’s De Niro’s masterpiece and it’s a classical Williams role.
And it’s so very sad that Robin Williams could not bear to stay with us.

5 * of 5


  1. Yes! This is THE movie. Perennial favourite of mine. Seriously underrated. Unjustly neglected. Perhaps the finest dramatic role of Robin Williams, though he was pretty great in "Good Will Hunting" and "Insomnia", and certainly one of the best things De Niro has ever done (which says a great deal, considering his stupendous filmography).

    Tell me, Ruby, what do you think? Why did Leonard get worse, because of the drug's side effects or because they wouldn't let him out for a walk? I myself entertain the romantic notion that the second reason was the real one, or at any rate the more important one.

  2. Thank you, Alexander, for the comment. It is indeed a great film, but not easy to watch frequently.
    To answer your question, probably both. Getting exercise, doing what one enjoys in life, being able to make one's own decisions - all are vital for everyone's well-being but absolutely for those with Parkinsons. But sadly, even today, medicines stop having the desired effect after long usage and Leonard and his fellow patients were very special cases so the change for the worse was so much more dramatic.
    It's sad though, that he couldn't have enjoyed his relatively good health just a little longer with some nice long walks.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Deleted only because through technical stuff it was published twice...