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Film: The Fisher King

If you are looking for the trope about rulers whose lands reflect their state of being, hop on over to Fisher King.

The Fisher King is a comedy-drama film made in 1991, written by Richard LaGravenese and directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer and Michael Jeter. The film is about a radio shock-jock who tries to find redemption by helping a homeless man whose life he inadvertently shattered.

Jack Lucas (Bridges), a cynical, arrogant shock jock talk radio host, becomes suicidally despondent after his insensitive on-air comments inadvertently prompt a depressed caller to commit multiple murders at a popular Manhattan bar. Three years later, while heavily intoxicated and depressed, he attempts suicide. Before he can do so, he is mistaken for a homeless person and is attacked and nearly set on fire by ruffians. He is rescued by Parry (Williams), a deluded homeless man who is on a mission to find the Holy Grail, and tries to convince Jack to help him. Jack is initially reluctant, but comes to feel responsible for Parry when he learns that the man's condition is a result of witnessing his wife's horrific murder at the hands of Jack's psychotic caller. Parry is also continually haunted by a hallucinatory Red Knight, who terrifies him whenever he shows any confidence.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Bargaining Skills: Jack initially attempts to quiet his conscience by just giving Parry some money, and keeps increasing the amount after misinterpreting Parry's lack of reaction (which is actually stunned pleasure at this, as far as he's aware, unmotivated act of charity).
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    Anne: I think men was made in the Devil's image, and women were created outta God. 'Cause, after all, women can have babies, which is kinda like creating. And which also accounts for the fact that women are so attracted to men. 'Cause let's face it, the Devil is a helluva lot more interesting. I've slept with some saints in my day, and believe me, I know what I'm talking about. Egh-boy!
  • Arc Words: "Forgive me". What the movie is all about.
  • The Atoner: Jack tries so hard to help Parry because he feels responsible for his condition, as it was his advice that drove his wife's killer into a rampage.
  • A World Half Full
  • Big Bad: From Parry's perspective, the Red Knight is this to him. While it's just a hallucination, it's also the only major antagonist force in the film.
  • Brick Joke: Before his on-air comments to his psychotic listener result in a bloodbath, he's practicing lines for a sitcom, On The Radio. Shortly after he loses his radio job, his role is given to another actor. Much later in the movie, we find out that On The Radio was cancelled after one season.
  • Buffy Speak: A woman wants to rent some funny videotape, like a "Katharine Hepburny-Cary Granty kinda thing" or a modern "Goldie Hawny-Chevy Chasy kinda thing" . She gets a "kinda big titty-spread cheeky kinda thing", Ordinary Peepholes.
  • Coupled Couples: Jack and Anne, and Parry and Lydia. The former two act as matchmakers for the other two.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Parry, who believes that he is a knight on a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Lydia.
  • Driven to Madness: Parry's current condition is the result of this, as a result of his wife being murdered right in front of him.
  • Fan Disservice: Parry dancing around naked in Central Park, covered in dirt.
  • Fisher King: The Trope Namer is discussed, but not quite invoked. See Magical Realism.
  • Homeless Hero: Parry.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jack.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Both Lydia and Parry have less than proper manners when at the Chinese Restaurant.
  • King Arthur: Parry's semi-symbolic quest for the Holy Grail.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Any scenes in which the Red Knight appears generally take a darker turn, even if it is just a hallucination on Parry's part.
  • Magical Realism: Especially the scene in Grand Central Station. The there's also echoes of this when the 'Grail' revives Parry.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Shame about the context...
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While the Red Knight is certainly in Parry's head, whether or not the 'Holy Grail' really magically brings Parry out of his catatonic state or it's just the realization he's holding it that does it is never explained.
  • Meaningful Name: Is Parry a diminutive of Percival?
  • Mock Guffin: Somewhat ambiguous. While it appears to be the case, the 'Holy Grail' still somehow brings Parry out of his catatonic state.
  • Odd Couple: Parry and Jack.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Jack: (after hearing about the mass murder by the fan he told to go kill yuppies) ... Fuck...
  • Redemption Quest: Everything Lucas does for Parry.
  • Shrinking Violet: Lydia.
  • Shock Jock: Jack Lucas
  • Shout-Out: There is a Brazil poster hanging in the Video Shop which was also directed by Terry Gilliam.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: The Central Station scene.
  • Stalking Is Love: Averted Trope. Lydia never gets to know how long Parry has... eh... known her.
  • Starmaking Role: No one knew who Michael Jeter was before this film.
  • Teens Are Monsters
  • Transvestite: This movie may have the most lovable Drag Queen ever conceived.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Jack is stealing the 'Holy Grail' for Parry, he realizes its owner has had a drug overdose and will die if he doesn't get help. Jack could just leave the way he came and no one would ever know he was there. He chooses to set off the alarm so help can arrive, saving the man's life even though no one will ever know it was him.
  • Wisdom from the Gutter: Parry practically becomes Jack's mentor.

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasCreator/The Criterion CollectionFive Easy Pieces
FireheadFilms of the 1990sFlight of the Intruder

alternative title(s): The Fisher King
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