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Awakenings (1990)

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Awakenings (1990)


Robert DeNiro
Robin Williams

Directed by Penny Marshall

I don’t know if you have heard or seen this drama because it is very good. Robert DeNiro for a long time has been dishing out masterful and memorable acting for years and in this 1990 movie, his portrayal of a catatonic patient who is dealing with coming to life after 30 years of being out of it, is worth seeing.
His acting got him nominated for Best Actor in the 1991 Academy Awards. The movie also got nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The down side of this movie is, the makers tried too much to make the acting and movie be too real. That may play well with many, but a viewer doesn’t want to watch a movie and be depressed, he wants to be happy.
Penny Marshall is a great director, her movies Big (1988) and A League of Their Own (1992) are forever memorable. I feel the thing she took out from this movie (comedy) was thing needed to make it a masterpiece and a box office hit (as the movie was not). I spent most of my time being sad and wanting to stop watching because I just couldn’t take the gloom, than I did being excited for the patients who got to live again.

DeNiro played Leonard Lowe in such a moving performance, I almost broke down in tears. Leonard was the patient Dr. Malcom first tried L-Dopa on (L-Dopa is a drug used to treat patients with Parkinson disease), increasing his dosage numerous times until one night Leonard got out of his bed himself and started talking. After monitoring him for some time, L-Dopa was then administered to the other catatonic patients suffering Encephalitis lethargica and they too came back to life.

Things started to change when the drugs started to affect Leonard, as he started behaving erratically, becoming harder to control and becoming a nuisance to himself and others. Leonard finally calmed down and allowed the doctors to use him to study the effects of the drug.

The late Robin Williams too delivered a good performance as he played British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized here in this movie as an American doctor Malcom Sayer. The movie is based on a 1973 memoir of the same name, where Oliver Sacks documents the effects of L-Dopa on catatonic patients of encephalitis lethargica.

I can bet everyone involved in this movie would have been pleased because the screenplay is very inviting and entertaining as we watch a doctor care so much about his patient that he did all he could to get them to come back from their catatonic state.


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