Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind Reviews

  • Sep 29, 2019

    A rudimentary bio-doc that isn't very insightful, but which features excellent archival material Directed by Marina Zenovich, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a rudimentary bio-doc that fails to live up to its subtitle. It asks questions about Williams, gives him a platform, marvels at his on-stage energy, but never manages to elucidate much in the way of psychological insight. Perhaps a little too respectful of her subject, Zenovich avoids hagiography, but so too does she gloss over some of the darker aspects, although it's certainly laudable that she refuses to allow the manner of his death become the defining moment of his life. What the film does have going for it, however, is the archival footage, which shows Williams at the height of his powers. And, ultimately, the quality of this footage offsets the film's failure to offer a deep dive into his thought-processes. Featuring interviews with people such as Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Pam Dawber, the film includes clips from Williams's 1986 performance at the Met Opera House; the outtakes from his improvisations explaining the uses of a stick during a 1991 appearance on Sesame Street; and his improvised "acceptance speech" at the 2003 Critics Choice Awards, where he was nominated for Best Actor alongside Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis, and the result was a draw between Nicholson and Day-Lewis ("it's been a wonderful evening for me, to walk away with nothing; coming here with no expectations, leaving here with no expectations. It's pretty much been a Buddhist evening for me"). From a biographical perspective, the film details such events as his 1973 scholarship to Juilliard, where he and Christopher Reeve were the only students selected by John Houseman to join the Advanced Program; how the death of John Belushi led to Williams getting clean; his celebrated appearance alongside Steve Martin in Mike Nichols's 1988 production of Waiting for Godot at the Lincoln Centre; checking himself into rehab in 2014 to treat his remerging alcoholism; his diagnosis with early stage Parkinson's; and ultimately, his suicide. Also touched on is that his father was a very stern man, and it was when a young Williams saw him laugh at Jonathan Winters, that he first began to consider a career in comedy. Also interesting is how he changed the manner in which sitcoms were shot. When he started on Mork & Mindy in 1978, all American sitcoms were shot with a three-camera set-up (one for the wide shot, the others for close-ups). However, due to his unpredictability, he would rarely stick to his marks, making it impossible for close-ups, as the operators never knew where he was going to go. And so, the show's executive producer Garry Marshall introduced a fourth camera, whose sole purview was to follow Williams. The use of audio interviews with Williams, which act as narration, see him more contemplative; "I don't tell jokes, I use characters as a vehicle for me. I seldom just talk as myself." This is, of course, a key admission, and is one of the main themes of the film – the private man hiding behind the public entertainer. However, the film fails to explore this dissonance; it's touched on a few times, but it's never examined in any detail. Indeed, for a film which literally invites the audience into the subject's mind, there's very little of any psychological worth. Another problem is Zenovich's unwillingness to depict some of the darker aspects of his life. Lip-service is given to some of it, but nothing more (Elayne Boosler talks about being his girlfriend whilst giving her blessing for him to be with other women; Billy Crystal explains that he was addicted to audience reaction; Steve Martin discusses how difficult he found sobriety). However, apart from these brief moments, Zenovich never examines any of the issues thrown up. And as much as they are glossed over, there's nothing at all on Dawber's claim that Williams fondled her and exposed himself to her on the set of Mork & Mindy, even if only to reiterate that she was never offended or threatened. The film's structure is also a little unusual, focusing on his rise in the 70s and 80s and the last few years of his life, without spending a huge amount of time looking at the intervening years. Because of this, when his 2014 suicide comes, it feels very abrupt. The argument could be made that Williams was notoriously difficult to know even in real life, hence we shouldn't expect a documentary to lay him bare, but the fact is that Zenovich doesn't really try. And I can't help but think that presenting some of the darker times would have been a more truthful approach; it wouldn't have tarnished his legacy, but it would have made for a deeper film. In the end, Williams was consumed by his demons, but Come Inside My Mind sidelines those same demons as much as possible, hoping, perhaps, that we remember the laughter, without dwelling on the sadness.

    A rudimentary bio-doc that isn't very insightful, but which features excellent archival material Directed by Marina Zenovich, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a rudimentary bio-doc that fails to live up to its subtitle. It asks questions about Williams, gives him a platform, marvels at his on-stage energy, but never manages to elucidate much in the way of psychological insight. Perhaps a little too respectful of her subject, Zenovich avoids hagiography, but so too does she gloss over some of the darker aspects, although it's certainly laudable that she refuses to allow the manner of his death become the defining moment of his life. What the film does have going for it, however, is the archival footage, which shows Williams at the height of his powers. And, ultimately, the quality of this footage offsets the film's failure to offer a deep dive into his thought-processes. Featuring interviews with people such as Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Pam Dawber, the film includes clips from Williams's 1986 performance at the Met Opera House; the outtakes from his improvisations explaining the uses of a stick during a 1991 appearance on Sesame Street; and his improvised "acceptance speech" at the 2003 Critics Choice Awards, where he was nominated for Best Actor alongside Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis, and the result was a draw between Nicholson and Day-Lewis ("it's been a wonderful evening for me, to walk away with nothing; coming here with no expectations, leaving here with no expectations. It's pretty much been a Buddhist evening for me"). From a biographical perspective, the film details such events as his 1973 scholarship to Juilliard, where he and Christopher Reeve were the only students selected by John Houseman to join the Advanced Program; how the death of John Belushi led to Williams getting clean; his celebrated appearance alongside Steve Martin in Mike Nichols's 1988 production of Waiting for Godot at the Lincoln Centre; checking himself into rehab in 2014 to treat his remerging alcoholism; his diagnosis with early stage Parkinson's; and ultimately, his suicide. Also touched on is that his father was a very stern man, and it was when a young Williams saw him laugh at Jonathan Winters, that he first began to consider a career in comedy. Also interesting is how he changed the manner in which sitcoms were shot. When he started on Mork & Mindy in 1978, all American sitcoms were shot with a three-camera set-up (one for the wide shot, the others for close-ups). However, due to his unpredictability, he would rarely stick to his marks, making it impossible for close-ups, as the operators never knew where he was going to go. And so, the show's executive producer Garry Marshall introduced a fourth camera, whose sole purview was to follow Williams. The use of audio interviews with Williams, which act as narration, see him more contemplative; "I don't tell jokes, I use characters as a vehicle for me. I seldom just talk as myself." This is, of course, a key admission, and is one of the main themes of the film – the private man hiding behind the public entertainer. However, the film fails to explore this dissonance; it's touched on a few times, but it's never examined in any detail. Indeed, for a film which literally invites the audience into the subject's mind, there's very little of any psychological worth. Another problem is Zenovich's unwillingness to depict some of the darker aspects of his life. Lip-service is given to some of it, but nothing more (Elayne Boosler talks about being his girlfriend whilst giving her blessing for him to be with other women; Billy Crystal explains that he was addicted to audience reaction; Steve Martin discusses how difficult he found sobriety). However, apart from these brief moments, Zenovich never examines any of the issues thrown up. And as much as they are glossed over, there's nothing at all on Dawber's claim that Williams fondled her and exposed himself to her on the set of Mork & Mindy, even if only to reiterate that she was never offended or threatened. The film's structure is also a little unusual, focusing on his rise in the 70s and 80s and the last few years of his life, without spending a huge amount of time looking at the intervening years. Because of this, when his 2014 suicide comes, it feels very abrupt. The argument could be made that Williams was notoriously difficult to know even in real life, hence we shouldn't expect a documentary to lay him bare, but the fact is that Zenovich doesn't really try. And I can't help but think that presenting some of the darker times would have been a more truthful approach; it wouldn't have tarnished his legacy, but it would have made for a deeper film. In the end, Williams was consumed by his demons, but Come Inside My Mind sidelines those same demons as much as possible, hoping, perhaps, that we remember the laughter, without dwelling on the sadness.

  • May 04, 2019

    Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is an absolutely fascinating documentary that shows the life, career, and psyche of one of the funniest comedians who ever lived.

    Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is an absolutely fascinating documentary that shows the life, career, and psyche of one of the funniest comedians who ever lived.

  • Apr 16, 2019

    It's an excellent movie that will be a treasure for his fans. It goes through his life from a kid right up til the end. It did a great job of showing his earliest exploits and interviewed the people he worked with. It followed that up by showing clips of his best roles/characters in movies as well as clips from his stand-up specials. It was great to hear intimate stories about him from his close friends. It really painted a picture of who he truly was. My only complaint was that they sort of rushed through his death. It would've been nice to hear more stories, especially from his family, about how the health problems affected and changed him. Overall I would definitely recommend this to anyone who ever was a fan of his.

    It's an excellent movie that will be a treasure for his fans. It goes through his life from a kid right up til the end. It did a great job of showing his earliest exploits and interviewed the people he worked with. It followed that up by showing clips of his best roles/characters in movies as well as clips from his stand-up specials. It was great to hear intimate stories about him from his close friends. It really painted a picture of who he truly was. My only complaint was that they sort of rushed through his death. It would've been nice to hear more stories, especially from his family, about how the health problems affected and changed him. Overall I would definitely recommend this to anyone who ever was a fan of his.

  • Feb 28, 2019

    An overall great portrait of Williams life, equally hilarious and tragic. It's hard to condense Williams' life into any sort of accessible narrative but this hits a lot of the main points with poignancy and insight.

    An overall great portrait of Williams life, equally hilarious and tragic. It's hard to condense Williams' life into any sort of accessible narrative but this hits a lot of the main points with poignancy and insight.

  • Feb 27, 2019

    Really entertaining and insightful portrait of the comedian.

    Really entertaining and insightful portrait of the comedian.

  • Feb 26, 2019

    Yet another reminder that all the fame, money and success in the world won't make you happy. Thereâ(TM)s nothing terribly new or outstanding here, but Robin will always certainly be a character worth hanging out with.

    Yet another reminder that all the fame, money and success in the world won't make you happy. Thereâ(TM)s nothing terribly new or outstanding here, but Robin will always certainly be a character worth hanging out with.

  • Avatar
    Philip P Super Reviewer
    Dec 10, 2018

    "Robin would just be...whatever person he was with, he'd be...what they wanted him to be. He just...didn't operate like normal people. He was very vulnerable that's for sure. He held onto a lot of things and internalized a lot of things. He felt everything." I've never felt closer to Robin Williams.

    "Robin would just be...whatever person he was with, he'd be...what they wanted him to be. He just...didn't operate like normal people. He was very vulnerable that's for sure. He held onto a lot of things and internalized a lot of things. He felt everything." I've never felt closer to Robin Williams.

  • Nov 03, 2018

    One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Funny, emotional... it perfectly encapsulates Robin’s life with ideological messages to enjoy it.

    One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Funny, emotional... it perfectly encapsulates Robin’s life with ideological messages to enjoy it.

  • Oct 29, 2018

    Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is an absolutely fascinating documentary that shows the life, career, and psyche of one of the funniest comedians who ever lived. 10/10

    Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is an absolutely fascinating documentary that shows the life, career, and psyche of one of the funniest comedians who ever lived. 10/10

  • Oct 07, 2018

    A Person With So Much To Offer, And Value Added To The World, While Absorbing So Much Inwardly..I'm Not Sure What Can Be Learned From The Doco, Other Than Being More Understanding Of Mental Illness, Isolation & Depression. He Is A Comedian / Performer I Truly Respect & Wish It Could Of Ended Differently..But It Wasn't To Be.

    A Person With So Much To Offer, And Value Added To The World, While Absorbing So Much Inwardly..I'm Not Sure What Can Be Learned From The Doco, Other Than Being More Understanding Of Mental Illness, Isolation & Depression. He Is A Comedian / Performer I Truly Respect & Wish It Could Of Ended Differently..But It Wasn't To Be.