Terry Gilliam’s 1991 The Fisher King finally gets a UK Blu-ray release courtesy of the ever-excellent Criterion Collection. With Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams at its core, this a movie that’s revered by so many and a picture that is regularly championed as a ‘must-see’. So, with this new release proving the perfect chance to revisit Gilliam’s film, does The Fisher King really live up to the constant hype that surrounds it?
Plot-wise, the film opens with an immensely powerful scene. As we’re introduced to Bridges’ New York shock jock, Jack Lucas, we barely get a glimpse at his face. Instead, we have several minutes of hearing Bridges’ voice and seeing his smoky visage as he shoots down caller after caller with his sarcastic wit. And then tragedy strikes. After nonchalantly encouraging a caller to go on a killing spree, Lucas sees his career in ruins when his words are taken extremely literally. Fast forward a few years, and we pick things up with Jack as he’s starting his working day in a video store by cracking open a bottle of Jack Daniels, much to the displeasure of his other half (Mercedes Ruehl). With his life on its backside, Lucas soon ends up being saved from a multi-man beating thanks to Robin Williams’ erratic hobo, Parry. Once a well-respected professor, Parry’s life was turned upside down when his wife was murdered during the killing spree that Jack encouraged. And so, with guilt gnawing at his soul, we see this former arrogant DJ looking to redeem himself by setting Parry up with the girl he spends his days longer over, Lydia (Amanda Plummer), and by helping him in his quest to find the Holy Grail.
To fully delve into the world of The Fisher King would be an impossible task in just 500 or so words here, but it really is a truly unique viewing experience. At times loud and brash, at others introvert and delicate, Gilliam has crafted something rather special in this rightfully-beloved film. And considering the often intricate, word-heavy narrative, the movie also has some absolutely stunning visuals, both in how well poised and well shot the picture is, and equally in how it presents some of its bigger moments (such as how we see the eerie presence that haunts Williams’ Parry).
Is it a redemption tale? Is it a romance story? Is it an act of social commentary on how people’s action can affect others? Is it simply slamming the boom-of-the-day’s shock jock culture? It’s all of these and so much more, with Bridges, Williams, Ruehl (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role here), and Plummer putting in exemplary performances that will have you scratching to think of a time when four lead acts put in a combined effort that was so high in quality.
As touching as it is sinister, as genuine as it is self-indulgent, as minimal as it is excessive, The Fisher King is never anything less than mesmerising. With a HD restoration and a bunch of brilliant extras, there’s never been a better time to revisit or first experience this one-of-a-kind movie.
Special Features: Audio commentary / New interviews / 2006 interview with Robin Williams / Video essay / Costume tests / Deleted scenes / Trailers / Essay by critic Bilge Ebiri
THE FISHER KING / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TERRY GILLIAM / SCREENPLAY: RICHARD LAGRAVENESE / STARRING: JEFF BRIDGES, ROBIN WILLIAMS, MERCEDES RUEHL, AMANDA PLUMMER, MICHAEL JETER / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 19TH