Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Mrs. Doubtfire

Film #349

THE PLOT

After a bitter divorce, an actor disguises himself as a female housekeeper to spend secret time with his children held in custody by his ex.

Year 1, Day 349

BEFORE: Keeping with the comedy theme and with classic films from the past that I’ve never seen, the perennial favorite Mrs. Doubtfire is the film du jour. Among the things I’m most looking forward to is Robin Williams’ performance as I am a big fan of his other works such as Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society.

AFTER: Euphegenia Doubtfire (Robin Willams) is the perfect mix of loving, handy, and strict, and for the viewers, amusing. Much like Trading Places yesterday, Mrs. Doubtfire is very much a film that succeeds because it plays with established roles and the reversal of them. But this film isn’t good just because Robin Williams can play a woman, convincingly well I might add; it’s also great because it has just the right touch of, for lack of a better word, “realness”.

I may just have a bias for Robin Williams and his very energetic style of humor, but I also find it very hard for someone to not laugh at this film. And it’s present in varying amounts: some are those funny moments where you don’t laugh but register it as funny (other people do that too, right?), small chuckles, big chuckles, and more than a few times where I laughed so hard I cried. A great thing about examples is it gives you an idea of what the film is like without having seen it so the opinion parts can make sense. While I could rattle off a whole slew of them, there’s one in particular I’d like to focus on because it gives a sense of the general style of humor. Halfway through the film, Daniel Hillard (also played by Robin Williams) is being Mrs. Doubtfire for the first time and taking care of the Hillard kids. Attempting to cook dinner, Mrs. Doubtfire accidently catches herself on fire and after putting it out, follows up by saying, “My first day as a woman and I’m getting hot flashes.” The idea of the film is bizarre in and of itself, but what’s even more bizarre is how easily we accept what’s going on and how commonplace the characters make it seem. This example is just one of many that illustrates that point. Mrs. Doubtfire the character and the film casually move along and act like everything’s natural; that father’s going through divorce usually dress up as a woman housekeeper to see their children. And it’s this casualness that takes you aback, but it’s done so incredibly well you don’t think about it even for a second and laugh from start to finish.

As I said though, many laughs and a female Robin Williams does not a great film make. Sure, that’s a big reason why it’s so entertaining but behind all the silliness and jokiness, there’s some serious bits as well. I called it “realness” because I hate always using the word meaning. Meaning sounds like it’s this deep thing, like finding the themes in a mandatory reading for high school English. Whatever the word is (after 300+ films I still haven’t figured one out yet), Mrs. Doubtfire has it. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Kramer vs. Kramer. Not just because this film also deals with divorce and the effect it has on the kids and the father, but because it goes about it in a similar way. It’s like a drama masquerading as a comedy. Not really, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not far from the truth. In the film, Miranda Hillard (Sally Field) mentions to Mrs. Doubtfire that her husband was funny and spontaneous among other things, but he could never be serious; he would always not pay attention. That’s how Mrs. Doubtfire feels, like there’s always a joke to lighten the mood, but as viewers we get the best of both worlds: we get to laugh at the joke while experiencing and think about what’s being said.

Mrs. Doubtfire has long been a popular film for many and now it makes its way onto a list of my favorite films. Robin Williams, along with his energy and many many voices, leads the film to greatness. Of course the supporting cast is vital as well and all do a fantastic job of creating a story that’s the right amount of humor, right amount of seriousness, and all entertaining. If you haven’t seen this 1993 classic, you shouldn’t delay any longer - put it on your list and watch it soon.

RATING: 5 out of 5