MRS. DOUBTFIRE. 1993. DIRECTED BY CHRIS COLUMBUS. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘ALIAS MADAME DOUBTFIRE’ BY ANNE FINE. STARRING ROBIN WILLIAMS, SALLY FIELD, HARVEY FIERSTEIN, LISA JAKUB, MATTHEW LAWRENCE, MARA WILSON, ROBERT PROSKY, ANNE HANEY AND PIERCE BROSNAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is one of the late great Robin Williams’s best and funniest films. Along with DEAD POETS’ SOCIETY, it’s probably my favourite of all his movies. He plays unemployed actor and TV voiceover guy Daniel Hilliard, whose marriage to Sally Field’s Miranda Hilliard breaks down pretty much irretrievably at the start of the film. Miranda, to put it bluntly, is tired of Daniel’s s**t, and here’s why.
He’s the funny, impulsive and irresponsible parent who makes up for any shortcomings as a father with big, expensive gestures. Like arranging for a petting zoo to come to their house for their son Chris’s birthday party. Miranda, on the other hand, is usually the parent who has to clean up the mess left behind by Daniel’s extravagant thoughtlessness. She also gets to be the bad guy, the meanie who lays down the law about homework, the villain who insists that the kids tidy their bedrooms. Miranda is tired, dead tired, of Daniel’s nonsense and of always having to be the sensible parent. She wants a divorce…
The Hilliards go to court to decide who gets custody of their three rugrats, Lydia, Chris and little Natalie, who also plays Matilda in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s childrens’ book of the same name. The judge tells a heartbroken Daniel that he can only see his kids at weekends until he sorts out a proper home and a job for himself.
In the meanwhile, Miranda needs a babysitter-cum-house-keeper for the kids from 3pm till 7pm every day. In some hilarious scenes, Daniel phones her up pretending to be a number of different unsuitable babysitters. Then he takes things several steps further and, with the help of his gay brother Frank played by a cuddly Harvey Fierstein, dresses up as an elderly lady with a phoney Scottish-mixed-with-English accent. In his new female persona, he shows up in person at the Hilliard apartment and completely charms the pants off Miranda, convincing her beyond a doubt that he’s the perfect person to look after the three sprogs. Thus begins the reign of not-quite-terror of Mrs. Euphegenia Doubfire…
Probably the funniest scenes happen when Mrs. Doubtfire either needs to be two people at once or in two places at the one time. Check out what happens when the court-appointed caseworker Mrs. Sellner comes to Daniel’s apartment to check that it’s a suitable environment for children and encounters Mrs. Doubtfire instead, on her way home from minding the kids. Mrs. Doubtfire has to pretend to be Daniel’s much older, much less attractive British sister, then extremely funny antics ensue when ‘she’ has to call ‘Daniel’ to come and greet his social worker.
Then there’s the time when Mrs. Doubtfire has to be present at a birthday meal for Miranda in the company of Miranda’s flashy new boyfriend Stu Dunmeyer, whom Daniel naturally loathes because Stu is totally moving in on what used to be his, Daniel’s, family. Plus he thinks Stu’s a flash git and a smarmy prick to boot, haha.
The posh restaurant where the birthday meal is being held, however, is the same one in which Daniel’s supposed to be having a super-important business meeting with his potential new boss, Jonathan Lundy (a dead ringer for Santa Claus), about a proposed new television show.
In the manner of Frank Spencer, Basil Fawlty or any of those other great television buffoons who will always unnecessarily complicate things when there is an opportunity to do so, Daniel sets out to do what is technically impossible. That is to say, to be in two places at once. He sits with his family and Stu in the restaurant as Mrs. Doubtfire, then rushes to the loo to turn himself back into Daniel again so that he can sit with the TV boss, telling hilarious lies and getting blind drunk in the process. His secret comes out before long, however, and then the s**t really hits the fan…
There are some brilliantly witty Mrs. Doubtfire one-liners in the film, many of them concerning Pierce Brosnan’s genitals. (Which I’m sure are absolutely top-notch, by the way.) The whole ‘dressing up as a woman’ thing gives the film-makers the excuse to stick some terrific music on the soundtrack, songs like DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY from Aerosmith and Frankie Valli’s WALK LIKE A MAN.
The way in which Daniel comes up with the name of his alter-ego is very funny. So, too, are the scenes in which Mrs. Doubtfire sees off a mugger and also finds herself lusted after by an elderly bus-driver who thinks that ‘her’ unnaturally hairy, sturdy legs are the sign of a good healthy constitution in a woman, haha.
The whole film is very funny, really. It’ll leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside and wanting to hug your loved ones. You may still want to go down the boozer afterwards and meet the lads/the girls for a few pints and a nice greasy kebab on the way home, but at least you’ll all have had that hug.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY