Awakenings

  • Film
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With Robin Williams as neurologist Oliver Sacks - here Dr Sayer - and De Niro as Leonard Lowe, the most afflicted Parkinson's case on the ward, we are deep in Rain Man territory (a terrain notable for its squashiness) in another homage to catatonia. The patients, frozen in what Pinter called 'A Kind of Alaska' in his play about the case, have been sealed off for decades. The good doctor treats them with L-Dopa, despite official hostility (Heard), with miraculous results. We don't get the euphoric explosions of libido detailed in Ry Cooder's 'What Makes Granny Run', nor do we get the depressions you might expect from all those wasted years. We do get Dr Sayer and Leonard relating, and - briefly - Leonard's diffident romance with a visitor (Miller) before he reverts. Dexter Gordon, one of the patients, was actually dying and looks it, which is something of a visual bring-down for the phony charades. Penny Marshall presses all the easy buttons, Williams bumbles loveably, and De Niro shakes his chassis to bits. Dramatically, it's a twin-tub, with a big slot on top to pour in the caring.

Release details

Duration: 121 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Penny Marshall
Screenwriter: Steven Zaillian
Cast: Robert De Niro
Robin Williams
Julie Kavner
Ruth Nelson
John Heard
Penelope Ann Miller
Alice Drummond
Judith Malina
Dexter Gordon
Max von Sydow
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