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The Fisher King
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fisher King, the 1991 Terry Gilliam epic, addresses mental health issues brought on by violent trauma -- in this case, the gory gunshot murder of a man's wife in front of his eyes. The man has frightening hallucinations of a giant knight on horseback coming after him, and is violently attacked by street vigilantes. He's also seen naked at night in Central Park. His genitals are briefly glimpsed but mostly obscured by the dark. Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and other curse words. Adults smoke cigarettes and marijuana and drink a lot of whiskey.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Two stars? They gave solid movies like this, "American History X" and "Unbreakable" two stars, and trash like "Twilight" and "After Earth" get three?
What's the story?
The casual words of a misanthropic radio shock jock (Jeff Bridges) unknowingly spur an unstable listener to kill innocent people in a night club in THE FISHER KING. One victim is the loving wife of a history professor (Robin Williams) named Perry, and after her brains are blown into his face, he goes into a catatonic state and then delusional psychosis, including visions of little people and a threatening knight on horseback. His mission is to steal what he thinks is the actual Holy Grail from a zillionaire's home. The radio host blames himself for the massacre and quits, losing his wealth and position. Living above a video store with its owner (Mercedes Ruehl), he is engaged in a monumental pity party that includes consumption of lots of whiskey and wallowing in misanthropy. Salvation arrives in the form of Perry, the widower now living mostly on the street. Jack tries to be generous but also distant as Perry gradually breaks down Jack's walls.
Is it any good?
While performances by Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams are compelling and much of the script is both ambitious and intelligent, overall The Fisher King leaves one disappointed. Director Gilliam (a former member of the Monty Python comedy group) continues his penchant for grand themes and visual complexity, but the disappearance of Perry's psychosis strains credulity. And over and over, the movie indicates that Jack isn't a good guy, even after he seems to have reformed. For that reason, when he yet again attains a degree of humanity at the end, it just doesn't seem believable. Even more disturbing, for more than two hours, this movie seems headed for an unhappy ending, yet it culminates with a tied-in-a-bow happy Hollywood finish.
Most puzzling of all is the mythical story that gives the film its title. The Fisher King, dying and self-pitying, is given water by a kind court fool. Instead of the kind act logically resulting in the fool being rewarded, the king, who was just lying there feeling sorry for himself, suddenly achieves what he has always wanted. That sounds unrealistically Hollywood, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Fisher King indicates that Jack is not the nicest person. Does Jack seem sympathetic?
The movie seems to indicate that mental health comes and goes. Do you believe that Perry is back to normal by the end of the film?
The movie gives reasons for every act of violence it shows. The men who beat up Perry and Jack, thinking they're bums, seem to want to purge their neighborhood of unsightly homeless people. The man who shoots up a nightclub believes that the club's patrons look down on him. Do you think having a "reason" can ever justify violence? Why, or why not?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.