Awakenings (1990)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Medical Drama, Psychological Drama, Docudrama  |   Release Date - Dec 20, 1990 (USA)  |   Run Time - 121 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Karl Williams

Loosely based on a book by real-life neurologist Oliver Sacks, Awakenings (1990) marked the high point of a successful side career for Sacks as a chronicler of unusual medical case histories. Although the film too often displays the easy sentimentality typical of director Penny Marshall, and the plot pitted its heroes against mindless hospital bureaucrats in a tired effort to force an antagonist into the proceedings, the career-high performances of stars Robin Williams and Robert De Niro make it a must-see film. Cast against type, the two pros sink their teeth into their roles as, respectively, a shy genius and a man with a teenager's mind betrayed by a collection of physical tics and twitches. The actors were rewarded for their efforts with a rare tie as Best Actor from the National Board of Review, and the film was nominated for three Oscars. So memorable was Williams in the doctor role that he repeatedly returned to the well and played healers in numerous later films, including Dead Again (1991), Nine Months (1995), Good Will Hunting (1997), What Dreams May Come (1998), and Patch Adams (1998).