It’s highly likely that Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King is the quirky director’s most accessible film. However, Gilliam doesn’t sacrifice his vision with this exceptional drama/fantasy, he embraces his usual interests and instincts and manages to deliver a visually impressive piece that’s also incredibly well acted.
Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams play Jack and Parry, two lost souls searching for the Holy Grail (whatever that is) in modern day New York (well, 1991 New York, but you get what I mean). Jack is a down on his luck former shock-jock, reeling from a mass murder which he accidentally instigated and Parry is homeless man, who lost his wife and his mind when the aforementioned tragedy took place. The fates collide and the two men join forces to help each other achieve their own unreachable goals in a city that’s as unforgiving as it is majestic. .
The Fisher King walks a tonal tightrope and Gilliam manages to keep everything perfectly balanced. He’s a director who is often blamed for putting style over substance, but he ekes-out exceptional performances from not only Bridges and Williams but also Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer and Michael Jeter. This is a modern day fairy tale and Gilliam shoots the film with his usual off-beat panache, turning New York into a mystical land with filled Knights and Castles.
Funny and at times shockingly tragic, The Fisher King is one of Terry Gilliam’s finest films (a tough call in a career filled with great films). Richard LaGravenese’s script plays to Gilliam’s strengths as a visualist and also adds an extra touch of humanity to proceedings. You get the feeling that he was a little out of his comfort zone when making the film but that makes it even more impressive.
This restored Criterion Collection blu-ray of The Fisher King is an exceptional package. You get a stunning vintage commentary for Gilliam (it’s from the old Criterion LaserDisc), new interviews from Gilliam, producer Lynda Obst, writer Richard La Gravenese, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer and Mercedes Ruehl. A a 2006 interview with the late Robin Williams, interviews with some of the film’s designers, original behind the scenes pieces and more. This is how you do it!