CAST

Robin Williams
Monica Potter
Daniel London
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Bob Hunton
Irma P. Hall
Peter Coyote
Michael Jeter
DIRECTED BY

Tom Shadyac
PURCHASE

Movie
Soundtrack
Book
Poster
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"You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person I'll guarantee you'll win."
Time: 115 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Official Web Site
Genre: Drama

Academy Award nomination for Best Score.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm fan of Williams and I think he can be a marvelous dramatic actor. AWAKENINGS is proof of that. However, he needs a firm directorial hand and a really good script to keep him from exercising his comic craziness, which I think at times touches genius, but has no place here. Yes, his character believed in healing the whole person, not just seeing them as a body with a disease. And yes, he did help his patients by trying to improve the quality of their lives by laughter and a personal touch. However, there are "Robin Williams" moments in this movie, where he goes into what seems like a stand-up routine and that's just inappropriate.

I'm sure the real Patch Adams the film is based on is a funny guy, but come on. Robin is a gifted enough actor to be funny without being himself. These scenes just pulled me right out of the story, making me aware of him "acting" and that's just not right. I could've forgiven the heavy-handedness of the film's message if the acting had been more subtle. In fact, it would have been easier to swallow, if everything was taken down a few notches. Instead, it was like being forced to drink original flavored Nyquil. You know it's a good thing in the end, but it's horrible going down.

I know that this was a very popular film and it's easy to understand why. Williams is incredibly likable and he's great as Patch Adams, a confused, intelligent man who finally discovers that he wants to become a doctor to help heal people. He doesn't fit in with the rest of the medical students not only because he's almost 20 years older, but because he has compassion and intelligence garnered from his life experience. He gets himself into trouble by bucking the establishment and refusing to quiet his innate sense of humor. Some of the students begin to resent him because he doesn't seem to have to study to get high grades and he has a way with people they just don't understand. According to the rules med students aren't supposed to come into contact with patients until their third year of school, but that doesn't stop Patch. The nurses look the other way because his presence seems to make such a difference to the patients.

His antics soon get him into trouble. He's not only accused of cheating, but he's caught on the wards one time too many. By appealing to the head of the hospital, Patch manages to stop his expulsion. However, he refuses to stop helping people. With the help of two of his fellow students – Carin (Potter), an initially cool blond, who gradually warms to his goofy charms and Truman (London), a quiet, caring who truly believes in Patch's message – Patch opens a free clinic open to anyone who needs or wants their help. The three student doctors are exhausted but happy. They know they're making a difference, not only for they're patients, but for themselves. Late one night, Carin opens up to Patch, spilling the secret behind her aloofness and her love for him. Patch finally seems to have his life together when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under him. His entire future is in jeopardy, but he is not alone. All those people who's lives he touched come forward to stand behind him in his time of need. Though the establishment may not like him or understand what he's trying to accomplish, his brand of medicine is not going away whether he becomes a doctor or not.

As I stated earlier, this is not a bad film. An overly sappy one yes. Completely unwatchable? For some. It was right on the line for me. Williams has an exuberance onscreen that makes him eminently watchable. I can't deny it. He sucks me in everytime. However, its moments like the finale of this film that leave a gross taste in my mouth. From the bad suit, to the extras with red clown noses on their faces, to the half plea/half stand-up routine he performs to keep his medical license. It was just too unbelievable and silly. Tom Shadyac should have watched AWAKENINGS before shooting this movie to understand how to get the best out of Robin in a dramedy. I know it's nitpicky, but I just can't help it. Just because he's playing a "clown" that doesn't mean I want a pie in the face. Subtlety goes a long way.