A deeply moving testament to the power of medicine and empathy.
Penny Marshall's medical drama Awakenings (1990) is a profoundly moving film. I find it captures the belief in medical science that doctors should aspire to, but more so relating to their patients' suffering and condition.
Marshall bravely represents a lost portion of society that have been left to die catatonic and hopeless in hospitals. Awakenings is inspired filmmaking from Marshall and inspiring as a story to remind the audience to live life to the fullest of your ability.
Randy Newman delivers his finest musical compositions with his affectionate jazz score. Newman underscores the harsh reality of Awakenings with delicate jazz brought to life with tender piano melodies throughout the film. It fits perfectly and swells just in the right emotional moments. Newman's score just mesmerizes me.
Steven Zaillian's beautiful script is brought to life by numerous brilliant performances within Awakenings' magnificent cast.
Namely, Robin Williams is so tender and empathetic as Dr. Malcolm Sayer. Awakenings is Williams' finest dramatic role as he finds an appreciation for the most down trodden selection of people and opens up to them. Robin Williams will sorely be missed for the warmth, joy, and compassion he brought to his characters and the world.
Similarly, Robert De Niro is inspired Leonard Lowe, a catatonic patient who is given a new life, as he recreates the afflictions suffered by those with a terrible disease. De Niro slurs his speech, lies still, walks with a limp, shakes his hands and arms, violently spasms his head, averts his eyes, droops his mouth, and any other number of realistic aspects to accurately portray his debilitated character. De Niro's depth for humanity shines in Awakenings as the very much alive Lowe. His love and appreciation for love are given to the audience through De Niro's passionate and method performance.
Furthermore, Julie Kavner is adorable as the sweet nurse Eleanor Costello. Her perseverance for her patients and her love are admirable. Kavne plays the character perfectly.
Then, Awakenings features an astonishing supporting cast of actors and actresses. John Heard is so stingy and cold as Dr. Kaufman. Penelope Ann Miller is so sweet and likable as the hopeful Paula. Max von Sydow gets a cool cameo as the knowledge expert on the movie's main disease concern. His research scene with Robin Williams is gripping and moving, if sad and disturbing at his implications of how horrendous the disease can be. Peter Stormare has a funny cameo as a sleazy, nonchalant neurochemist.
Additionally, Awakenings has several other neat supporting roles played wonderfully by Ruth Nelson, George Martin, Richard Libertini, Alice Drummond, Judith Malina, Bradley Whitford, Mary Alice, Keith Diamond, and even jazz legend Dexter Gordon. Would you believe a young Vin Diesel plays an orderly somewhere in there too?
Overall, Awakenings is an enchanting drama about the power of life and the importance of trying to do what is right. The acting is stellar and worth seeing just for Robin Williams and Robert De Niro alone.