The tabloids filled in the blanks when Robin Williams died in 2014 at the age of 63. The return of his well-documented demons was reported on by Front Pages: Williams had a history of depression, alcohol abuse, and cocaine use. Then came the autopsy, discovering that he had probably suffered from Lewy body dementia, an undiagnosed degenerative brain disease. In the last 18 or so months of his life, that explained his symptoms: Parkinson’s-like tremors, visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and sleep disturbances.
Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider, joins friends and colleagues in discussing his decline in this informative, desperately sad documentary. All seemed off for a while. From the set of his last film, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Crypt, there’s footage; he looks hollow and distracted – the alertness and the anarchic wit are gone. ‘He was just sort of off,’ a friend says. He was unable to recall his lines. For months, he hadn’t eaten. Robin’s Wish is not a detailed documentary on the life of Williams. There were moments when he followed Susan around the building.
It details his career only briefly, from the early dreams of a serious acting career at New York’s Juilliard Drama School to standup stardom (“he sucked every ounce of laughter out of the crowd”) and Hollywood.
He speaks about his self-destructive streak in archival footage (he got clean after his friend John Belushi died of a drug overdose), but there’s nothing about Williams’ two previous marriages or three children. His warmth and loyalty as a friend is never questioned. In an affluent suburb of Northern California, he lived with Susan, making friends with her ordinary middle-class neighbors, some of whom are interviewed here (I’ll risk a guess that at least one is a retired dentist).
Superman actor Christopher Reeve says in old videos that when he was injured in a riding accident, Williams was present for a shot at his hospital bedside.
Another showbiz buddy, legendary comedian Mort Sahl, now very frail at 93, says of his friend, “He understood the magnitude of love.” with moist eyes and tremendous honesty. What a way to remember.