ROBIN WILLIAMS: COME INSIDE MY MIND (NC16)
108 minutes/Premieres July 17 on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601)/3.5 stars
The story: This documentary of comedian and actor Robin Williams covers his personal and professional life, from his youth to his death, by suicide, in 2014. It includes home movies, personal photographs and interviews with famous friends Billy Crystal, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg, Pam Dawber and his son, Zak Williams.
Williams, at one point in his life, had everything. He was an actor at home in comedies and dramas and with commercial hits like Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990) and Mrs Doubtfire (1993) in his resume, Hollywood was at his feet.
Director Marina Zenovich knows tortured, self-destructive artists. She did a well-regarded Richard Pryor documentary (Richard Pryor: Omit The Logic, 2013) and two films on scandal-plagued film-maker Roman Polanski (Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, 2008; Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, 2013).
Her film explores, in passing, Williams' personal and professional twists and turns. But despite calling in a panoply of A-listers (Letterman, Crystal and others), each talking about the choices he made, what can one really say about a mercurial man except that he was mercurial?
This celebratory eulogy to his genius - and this film proves, over and over, how gifted he was - also skips over his less well-received work, such as 1998's syrupy clown-doctor biography Patch Adams. It also deals all too briefly with the flop that was the live-action remake of the cartoon Popeye (1980). It skims over his latter-day indie films, many of which were little seen.
And, for those seeking deeper truths about his suicide, this film uncovers little new information. He was ill with Lewy body disease and the struggle might have proved too much for him to take. It does, however, mention in some detail the actor's battles with cocaine and alcohol.
Zenovich believes that the man can be best understood through a retrospective of his work, accompanied by a narration made up of his own sound bites, stitched from old interviews. So this film is largely a greatest-hits compilation, a feel-good anthology.
Luckily, she has great taste. The bits she has compiled are funny and the talking-head sections are edited with care. What emerges is a portrait of a star who never became a terrible dad or entitled monster, but who remained who he was until his final days: a sweet, gentle soul for whom the art of expressing himself was everything.
The film premieres July 17 on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) at 8am, with a same day primetime encore at 9pm. The documentary will also be streaming on HBO GO and available on HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Channel 602).