Listen to our Mrs Doubtfire episode on:
- Google Play
- Player FM
- Pocket Casts
A slapstick comedy that also doubles as a poignantly realistic portrayal of a family breakdown, Mrs Doubtfire isn’t just one of Robin Williams’ most widely beloved movie roles, it may also be the purest expression of the full range of his talents. Many of the actor’s less successful vehicles – and there were many – either leaned too heavily into sentimentality, or failed to reign in his infamous penchant for wacky showboating.
There’s plenty of both in Mrs Doubtfire, but crucially the film manages to walk the line in a way that feels natural even when the central performance is ramped up to eleven. By casting Williams as a flamboyant actor who struggles to take anything in life seriously, the movie gives the actor plenty of room to wheel out his zany voices and dead-on celebrity impersonations, while also tacitly acknowledging that living with a character who’s constantly ‘on’ could very easily turn into a nightmare.
It helps that Williams has one of his greatest sparring partners in the form of Sally Field – the kind of actress who refuses to turn in the kind of one-dimensional ‘bitch mom’ performance that the script might have called for. She might be playing the straight role, but Field allows us to empathise with her character’s increasing exasperation with her estranged husband, while also landing some lovely comic beats herself. Her reaction to the big reveal in the restaurant might just be the funniest moment in the entire movie.
Ultimately, Mrs Doubtfire also succeeds because it doesn’t pander to an idea of what the audience wants to see. A lesser film would have ended with Williams and Field happily reconciled, but this one commits to the idea that some marriages are beyond saving – a heavy notion for a family movie, but one that many young viewers would have personal experience of. The movie ends on a perfectly bittersweet note, favouring emotional honesty over easy answers. It makes you wish that more of Williams’ screen vehicles had been so well calibrated.
In this week’s episode of Beyond The Box Set, we’re joined by the mysterious Laurin, who has a special connection to Mrs Doubtfire, having grown up in the San Francisco area where the movie was shot. We also discuss our mutual obsession with all things Sally Field, fall in love with Mara Wilson all over again and attempt our first ever scripted table-reading for one of our sequel ideas!
You can find our Mrs Doubtfire episode right now on all good podcasting platforms – simply follow the links at the top of this blog post or search ‘Beyond The Box Set’ on your preferred podcatcher. You can also hit subscribe for a new episode every Friday morning, leave us a rating or a review or recommend us to a friend – all nice things to help our show build an even bigger audience. Don’t forget to also check out our Patreon page, where we offer a wide variety of bonus content for as little as $2 per month.
Next week, we’ll be joined by our very first three-time guest to discuss an iconic 90s classic of a very different variety. Until then, happy listening!