The final recommendation from my screening of Way Out West in the family genre of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is this wonderful Chris Columbus film starring Robin Williams, who turns in a wonderfully fantastic performance as Daniel Hillard.
Daniel is a fun-loving voice actor, who can rarely take anything seriously but loves his children beyond measure and will do anything to be with them and ensure their happiness. Even if that means posing as their female, English nanny.
Reeling from divorce proceedings brought on by his wife, Miranda (a restrained, but resonating turn by Sally Field), Daniel is out on his own for the first time, and struggles to make his new apartment suitable for his children, while also trying to secure a job. Coupled with this is the revelation that there is a new suitor in Miranda’s life, her old friend, Stu (Pierce Brosnan).
He messes with a newspaper ad that Miranda places for a nanny/housekeeper and after a number of hilarious phone calls, wins over his ex-wife with his Mrs. Doubtfire persona. With the help of his brother, Frank (Harvey Fierstein) who is a make-up artist, they put together the perfect image of a nanny, one that Daniel settles into nicely, and allows him to see his children, Chris (Matthew Lawrence), Lydia (Lisa Jakub) and Natalie (Mara Wilson) on a daily basis.
But maybe Mrs. Doubtfire is too perfect, and may prevent Daniel from seeing the children as himself.
There are so many brilliant lines and moments through this film, but it also has a lot of heart, and deals realistically with divorce, as Daniel watches his life fall apart. And through his Mrs. Doubtfire persona, he eventually learns that maybe he wasn’t so good for Miranda, even though they had three wonderful children together, and maybe she can be happy again. And if she can, maybe he can too.
I loved this movie, and its also tied with an event in my own life. When the film came out on video (back in the day), I was working at Jumbo Video in Kingston, and with my love of Robin Williams, and my occasional talent at doing voices… I volunteered to get made up by a local beauty salon, and get all dragged up… and for a couple of shifts at work, I was in character as Mrs. Doubtfire.
I have no fear about personal embarrassment apparently. Happily, I think no pictures exist in public anymore, and any that do exist, may in fact be in my possession (somewhere).
I loved this movie, and I hadn’t seen it in over a decade or more, so it was such a joy to watch this one again, and just enjoy the performances. And it also serves to remind me how much I miss Robin Williams.
A great film.