Robin Williams: An Indie Film Appreciation

SAGindie — Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

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You could never put Robin Williams‘ career into one box. He was a hyperactive standup; a wacky comedic leading man; a stable presence in family fare; and a moving character actor. He could play everything from Peter Pan to a PTSD-addled homeless man (in the same year, no less!). Though he’s still generally thought of as a comedian, the man had range.

In 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his portrayal as a tough-love psychologist in Good Will Hunting. He brought gravitas to a small indie film written by two unknown actors (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) and helmed by Gus Van Sant, then largely considered an “art-house filmmaker.”

But following that film’s astounding success (over $200 million in worldwide grosses) and with an Oscar under his belt, Robin Williams didn’t turn his back on smaller, independent films. Williams proved he was the type of actor willing to take a risk on an unknown filmmaker or an outside-the-box premise; and the odds of these indies getting attention, funding, or distribution were no doubt increased thanks to support from an actor like Robin Williams.

While Good Will Hunting may continue to be (deservedly) one of Robin Williams’ most famous roles, a number of the actor’s lesser-known indie projects are also worth exploring. In light of his untimely passing, we take a look at some of these films.

 

One Hour Photo (2002)

One of Williams’ darkest roles, he portrays a photo technician who becomes dangerously obsessed with a customer’s family. For anyone who still wrote Williams off as a goofball, this performance definitely proved them wrong.

 

The Big White (2005)

In this Canadian black comedy, Williams plays a small-town travel agent who finds a dead body in a dumpster and decides to use the corpse to his financial advantage. A more indie-minded Weekend at Bernie’s, with a great ensemble cast including Holly Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, and Woody Harrelson.

 

The Night Listener (2006)

Before Catfish-ing was a thing, Williams delved into that territory in this psychological thriller based on a true story. He plays a radio host who starts investigating the existence of a teenage memoirist, but soon learns he might be digging a bit too deep.

 

World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

This terrific satire from Bobcat Goldthwait may be uncomfortably close to the recent events surrounding Williams’ death, but it’s one of his best performances of the last few years. Delving too much into the plot (about Williams’ relationship with his asshole teenage son) might give away some of the surprises, but World’s Greatest Dad is definitely worth seeking out.

 

Still To Come…

 

Boulevard

This independent drama premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and features Williams as a married man whose encounter with a street hustler makes him confront his secret life. An official release date has yet to be announced.

Merry Friggin’ Christmas

A dysfunctional family holiday movie starring Williams as the family patriarch with a brood consisting of Joel McHale, Lauren Graham, and Candice Bergen. No word on the release date yet, but judging from the title it will likely arrive later in the year (Update: Merry Friggin’ Christmas hits theaters and VOD on November 7, 2014. BuzzFeed has a clip).
 
What are some of your favorite Robin Williams performances?

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