Awakenings (1990)


Starring: Robin Williams, Robert De Niro, Julie Kavner, Ruth Nelson, John Heard, Penelope Ann Miller, Max Von Sydow

Director: Penny Marshall

Summary: A doctor’s experiments bring a group of comatose patients back to consciousness

Other Nominations: Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay

A pretty engaging story, especially in the first half that reminded me somewhat of Flowers for Algernon aka Charly. The mostly light tone with some good sincere moments worked in was effective and just seeing Williams investigate these patients was really interesting to me since I had no idea anything like this was a real condition people suffered at one point in time. I liked Williams a lot as the main doctor and I would have nominated him for Best Actor before De Niro (which is what the Golden Globes did), although De Niro gives a good performance as well.

The second half of the movie is more of a straight drama, but I think it misses the mark by a bit and could have been stronger. The premise is fantastic and there are so many ways that could have had more emotional resonance and would have cut deeper, but it only skims the surface of exploring what it would be like for someone in these patient’s situation. It goes for an easy and simple message and basic sentimentality when much more profound and existential questions could have been asked, and that’s really a shame for me considering how well the situation was set up. Nevertheless, this is still a good movie with good performances, it’s just that I believe it could have been a great movie in the hands of a different writer and director.

Rating: B-


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