Most weeks on At the Movies, Peter Travers reviews whatever is hitting the multiplex this weekend, or cracks wise about the month’s bad movies as he throws them into “the scum bucket.” This week, however, is different: Rolling Stone‘s film critic puts the reviews on hold in order to remember Robin Williams, the actor and comedian who took his own life this week.
Travers starts by remembering his first encounter with Williams 15 years ago, when he was waiting for the star to call him for an interview. He found his then-five-year-old son, Alex, on the phone, and started to reprimand the child for hogging the line when an important call was coming in. “It turned out that call was from Robin Williams, who was doing cartoon voices for my little boy. That was Robin — sweet, giving, constantly saying ‘I want to put on a show for everybody.”
The critic then goes on to remember how, with Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) and Dead Poets Society (1989), Williams managed to inject some of the high-voltage energy and free-association humor of his stand-up routines into his film roles. “He would say, ‘This DJ business was rock & roll,’ and that what he did. He made movies rock & roll…he brought that energy, that genius he had, into what he did.”
Finally, Travers advises viewers to seek out two of Williams’ darker, more disturbing films, both from 2002. In Insomnia, the star plays a serial killer playing cat-and-mouse games with Al Pacino; in One Hour Photo, he’s a drug-store photo developer who becomes obsessed with a suburban family. “I recommend you watch one or [both] of these, and remember what we’ve lost” he says, before signing off with a line from Dead Poets Society: “Oh captain, my captain! That was what Robin Williams was to me.”