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Robin Williams’ Haunting Swan Song

August 12, 2014


The Angriest Man in Brooklyn isn’t a great film. It isn’t even a very good one. But it is the last one of Robin Williams’ to be released before his death, and it contains more than a few chilling moments, seen in tragic retrospect.

Directed by Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams), the mercifully brief, 83-minute dark comedy opens with a flashback of Williams and Melissa Leo—who’d co-starred with him in a searing episode of Homicide: Life on the Street as well as playing First Lady Mamie Eisenhower opposite his Ike in Lee Daniels’ The Butler—from 1989. It’s an idyllic scene of a married couple with their kids in a park, and Williams’ first and only line is “I’m happy.”

Flash forward to 2014. Williams’ character, Henry Altmann, is stuck in traffic and listing in his head everything he hates. He gets into a fender bender with a cabbie, who tells him, “You’re dead!” Shaken, he goes to the E/R, where a depressed doctor (Mila Kunis, way over her head in this role, but since she was an exec producer of the film, who was going to stop her from casting herself?) discovers he has an aneurysm and angrily blurts out a premature diagnosis: He only has 90 minutes to live. Before bursting out of the hospital, Henry snarls, “Excuse me for dying!”

Henry decides he needs to go home and make love to his wife, from whom he’s been estranged ever since the death of one of their two sons. He discovers she’s been having an affair with an elderly neighbor (Bob Dishy), and after an argument, she screams, “I wish you would die!” His response: “Well, it’s your lucky f—ing day!”

After failing to reconcile with his surviving son (Hamish Linklater, who also co-starred with Williams in his ill-fated 2013-14 sitcom The Crazy Ones), who’d eschewed a law career to teach dance, Henry decides to throw himself off the Brooklyn Bridge, pronouncing himself “irrevocably f—ed.” He jumps, but survives, and he explains in one of the film’s needlessly literary bits of narration, “When Henry Altmann fell from the bridge, time had slowed and it occurred to him that life didn’t have to be a burden, that life was short and fragile and unique and that each hour, each minute, each second could have something to offer, something beautiful and astounding.”

Kunis’ character rescues Williams and after he and his son share a sweet final dance, he checks into the hospital, where we’re told he lived for eight more days and mended fences with his family. Williams’ last, beyond-the-grave voiceover resonates eerily: “He was at peace, knowing he would live on in the hearts of those who loved him.”  One can only hope the same could be said of Robin Williams.

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