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Josh Reviews Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

August 20th, 2018
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The new HBO documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, is a fascinating and funny look back at the life and career of Robin Williams.  If you’re a fan of comedy, and/or the work of Mr. Williams, I can’t imagine your not enjoying this film from director Marina Zenovich.

I’ve loved Robin Williams’ work for as long as I can remember.  He was a giant, an extraordinarily creative and original comedian and also a fantastic actor in all sorts of films — comedies and dramas.  As a kid I had a cassette tape with a recording of his electric, hilarious 1986 concert at the Met (“A Night at the Met”), which I listened to over and over again.  That was my introduction to Mr. Williams stand-up work, which I followed voraciously.  I particularly loved all of the Comic Relief specials that he did with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.  Mr. Williams’ film work was always of interest to me, as well, and while he was certainly in a lot of bad movies, he was also in quite a number of terrific films which I have returned to repeatedly over the years, films like Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society and The Birdcage.

Come Inside My Mind follows Mr. Williams’ life and career.  There’s a lot of ground to cover, but the film is skillfully edited so that it feels very in-depth while still moving along at a brisk pace.  here wasn’t anything major that I felt the film skipped, which is an impressive accomplishment for a documentary that clocks in at less than two hours.

The film is often somber, as we explore some of the troubles Mr. Williams faced over the course of his life.  And, of course, his too-early death hangs over the whole film like a shadow.  That being said, the film is also very very funny, giving lots of time for archival clips of Mr. Williams’ comedy — both from his stand-up work and also his performances on TV and in film — from throughout his life.  Sometimes documentaries about comedians take themselves too seriously and become somber and grim affairs, but Come Inside My Mind does not fall into that trap.  I love how jam-packed the film is with incredible, hilarious clips of Mr. Williams’ work.  We cover all the well-known bases you’d expect the film to cover, and also some surprisingly deep cuts.  (I was delighted that the film spends a lot of time of Mr. William’s hilarious, ad-libbed reactions to losing the 2003 Critics’ Choice award to a tie between Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis.)

One of the things that sets this documentary apart is its extensive use of Mr. Williams’ own words.  Much of the voice-over narration of the film is Mr. Williams himself, with audio drawn from interviews and other sources from throughout his life.  So it feels almost as if Mr. Williams is telling his own story.  This is a wonderful approach that Ms. Zenovich and her team have taken.  I love the way it keeps the focus squarely on Robin himself, and, after all, who better to talk about his life than the man himself?

There are, of course, many other wonderful interviews that have been woven into the film.  We get to hear from Mr. Williams’ peers such as Steve Martin, David Letterman, Billy Crystal, and Eric Idle.  We get to hear with filmmakers who worked with Mr. Williams, such as Mark Romanek and Bobcat Goldthwait.  And we get to hear from Mr. William’s family members such as his first wife Valerie Velardi and his son Zak.  (Mr. Williams often mentioned Zak in his stand-up — particularly the afore-mentioned “A Night at the Met” — so it was fascinating to get to see and hear from Zak himself.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary.  It’s a terrific celebration of Mr. William’s incredible career and life and it made we want to go back and watch some of Robin William’s movies right away.

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