Jan 15, 2012

Awakenings (1990): C-

Although far more digestible, the schmaltzy worldview offered by Awakenings can now be seen as the forerunner to Robin Williams' most offensive vehicle to date, Patch Adams. Williams is Malcolm Sayer, a doctor who hasn't worked with living human patients since his schooling, now employed at a Bronx hospital at which reside numerous catatonic patients, some of whom have been completely unresponsive for several decades. A new drug may be the cure they've been waiting for. The film is empathetic and deliberately "touching" without quite triggering the gag reflex, but the script needed at least another rewrite before moving on to production, and the visual elements are Oscar-friendly bland. The reason to watch, then, is a tremendous Robert De Niro, as Leonard Lowe, the first patient to be awoken, and the first to subsequently lose control of his body once again. Based on Oliver Sacks's memoir of the same name. Maybe life affirming, but hardly life-changing.

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