The Fisher King 1991

Read the script
Excerpt from The Fisher King (PDF)

The Story

‘Terry Gilliam directed this adapt­a­tion of Richard LaGravenese’s mystical (and myth­ical) tale of redemp­tion in the hard-time town of New York City. Jeff Bridges is shock radio DJ Jack Lucas, whose low opinion of humanity lends itself well to his radio talk show, where the enmity rubs off on his listeners. One fan, in partic­ular, takes Jack’s rants to heart and goes to a fancy restaurant with a gun, murdering inno­cent diners.

Jack is so distraught at what his on-air sugges­tion wrought that he sinks into a three-year depres­sion, drinking himself to sleep and mooching off of his girl­friend Anne Napol­itano (Mercedes Ruehl, in an Oscar-winning perform­ance), an attractive owner of a video store. Hitting bottom, Jack slumps to the river, prepared to commit suicide.

To his rescue comes a crazed but witty home­less man named Parry (Robin Williams), who tells Jack he’s destined for great things — all he has to do is find the Holy Grail (conveni­ently located in mid-town Manhattan) and save Parry’s soul. He also wants Jack to help him out with the woman of his dreams, Lydia Sinclair (Amanda Plummer), a shy type who works at a publishing company. Parry was once a univer­sity professor became unglued by a tragic event in his past; Jack soon real­izes that to save himself, he first must save Parry’.

by Paul Brenner, from Rotten Tomatoes

Terry Gilliam talks about The Fisher King

The Scene

Terry Gilliam’s forays into the world of myth­o­logy can be excess­ively whim­sical at times but they are never twee or sanit­ised. Fisher King may lack the dark over­tones of Brazil but it is at least grounded in the modern world and, despite the pres­ence of Robin Williams, it mainly avoids self-indulgence.

Trans­posing the grail myth to modern day New York, the film some­times strains to make a fit. But, at its best, there is a pleasing mischiev­ous­ness in the way that it subverts classic arche­types; as in this scene in which the ‘damsel in distress’ is trans­formed into ‘ a gay bum’ figure and the script gener­ally avoids patron­ising its char­ac­ters (a refer­ence to all of the gay man’s friends dying  – presum­ably of Aids – is handled with subtlety).

Gilliam contrib­utes his own unique visual style; including sly refer­ences to famous artists (both Hogarth and Michaelangelo’s Pieta are parodied in the Bellevue scene). He also proves the sound­ness of his instincts for what works on screen: the substi­tu­tion of the ‘waltz scene‘ in Grand Central Station for what was in the original script being one inspired example (see inter­view above).


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