Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
Directed by Marina Zenovich
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a superb, thoughtful, must see, revealing documentary by Marina Zenovich. Being cynical, I half expected a quickly put together film to make a few bucks off Robin Williams and get cheap ratings. Instead, I watched an interesting film that really presents the various facets of Robin Williams, good and bad, and, in the end, what a friend who was watching Come Inside My Mind with me saw: a heartfelt eulogy. The documentary features contributions by best friend Billy Crystal as well as his son, various family members, Pam Dawber, Eric Idle, and comic Lewis Black
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind starts appropriately enough with Inside the Actor’s Studio’s James Lipton asking the comic how he manages to get so many ideas at the same time. This serves as a set-up for Williams to go on a demonstration of how quickly his brain works. Ominously, he says he is afraid of becoming dull, like a rock.
Part of what makes this HBO documentary noteworthy is the amount of historical footage director Marina Zenovich was able to get her hands on. It is fascinating and, of course, generally funny. There are also a few bloopers from various movies to break some of the more dramatic segments.
William’s childhood was one of moving around. His mother was a comedy magnet but it is his father’s reaction to Jonathan Winters on The Tonight Show that gave him the comedy bug. Williams trained as a classical actor and his Taming of the Shrew won best show at the 1971 Edinburgh Festival. He went to Julliard with best pal Christopher Reeve and was under the tutelage of John Houseman. This explains his Broadway appearance with Steve Martin in Waiting For Godot.
The documentary does go into sensitive subjects. One is his complex family tree. A major myth is dispelled by Williams’ first wife, Valerie, about him cheating on her with his kid’s nanny. Come Inside My Mind also covers Robin Williams’ cocaine years and his later alcoholism which he addressed in is 2000 stand-up comedy special.
Other fun things you learn is that his classic A Night At The Met was 25% improvised that night even if he had honed the show on the road for months. Also interesting is how his friendship with Billy Crystal developed. It was his role in The Fisher King that got him to set-up Comic Relief to help the homeless.
There are quite a few interesting quotes in Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. One from his son Zack, “His path was to entertain and please and when he couldn’t do that he was not succeeding as a person.” Another is Lewis Black calling him “the light that never knew how to turn itself off”.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind closes with various photos and the seize the day scene from Dead Poet’s Society where the students are looking at the picture gallery of past classes.