One of the many guilty pleasures of my childhood is “Mrs Doubtfire”. I would come home from school and watch this perhaps two or three times before dinner and find it equally enticing each time.

Remember those days? The days when you didn’t have to wait for years to hope that your favourite movie perhaps could feel like the first time again.

Although Mrs Doubtfire is silly and at times implausible, I will still fight for it with all I’ve got, because I do believe it harbours a cut of genius.

Mrs Doubtfire Poster

The Oscar winning make-over Mrs Doubtfire

***MINOR SPOILERS***

What is this film?

“Mrs Dountfire” (1993) is the blockbuster hit from the nineties that made Robin Williams a house-hold name.

The film is based upon the book called “Madame Doubtfire” by Anne Fine and was directed by a young Chris Columbus who has also made us such family favourites as “Home Alone 1 and 2” (1990, 1992) and “Harry Potter 1 and 2” (2001, 2002).

The movie tells us the story of Daniel Hillard, an out-of-work voice actor who in the midst of a nasty divorce with his wife (Sally Field, that woman who pops up in everything). He is in danger of loosing custody of his children, and in a desperate attempt to see them more often, he lands a job as their nanny and dresses up as an old, English woman.

Hilarity and drama ensues.

 

Why did I watch this 100 times as a kid?

Mrs. Doubtfire was one of the few movies we owned on VHS. And as any of the handful of VHS’ I owned can tell you, they were watched to death religiously.

But then again what is there not to love about this film? The different voices done by Robin Williams, the montage of the different make-up versions of a nanny, the montage of Mrs Doubtfire rocking the air-guitar with her broom, the passive aggressiveness of Daniel towards his wife’s new chaperone Stu (played by a smirky and too-good-to-be-true Pierce Brosnan).

I could go on and on and on.

Notice that most of what I remember loving comes from Robin Williams, most notably the scenes where he did the most improv.

 

The Award-winning Make-Up

One of the best scenes is when Daniel has a meeting with his councillor and has to both represent himself and Mrs Doubtfire alternately as he tries to hide the fact that he has dressed like a woman (difficult to explain I guess).

We have just seen him magically appear in his Mrs. Doubtfire-do-up at his children’s doorstep. We now get the chance to see him undress piece by piece and it is revealed that it is in fact Daniel under there.

No cinematic trick. It is just priceless.

The added pressure of the presence of the councillor adds to the fun. Damn why does that woman want a cup of tea?

Fun fact: The actual prosthetic face of Mrs Doubtfire that we see in this sequence (which is driven over by a truck as Daniel drops it onto the street) is actually only a prop. To become the proper Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams had to sit for four and a half hours each day and the make-up was done with as many as eight different pieces.

 

The issue of Divorce

One of the reasons this movie got to me is the divorce theme. I don’t think I knew this at the time, but thinking back I believe the movie helped me understand that parents don’t get back together after a divorce. So it is useless to hope for that.

And they really shouldn’t be together. So you shouldn’t want them to.

And, probably more importantly, their divorce wasn’t my fault!

According to the author of the book, Anne Fine, I am not alone. She has often been told by fans that this movie was one they watched over and over again for comfort, especially children of divorce.

 

Is it any good?

Who doesn’t love a bit of quality drag? Especially when the man realises what a fascist invention high-heels are. That comment is golden.

The movie is silly and at times you wonder why no one notices that this is Daniel. Thankfully the movie has enough of little plot points, like the older children figuring out it is their dad, to make it not so implausible that we disregard it.

Then again, would you really suspect an old woman to be your ex-husband?

You can tell that the people in the movie had good fun making it. From articles I have read about the production, a lot of the acting was improvised. Especially from Robin Williams.

I would have given a lot of blood to be a fly on the wall during this production and experience true comedy greatness. And hopefully be calmed by the fact that when you try a line in 1000 different ways, at least one of them must be genius, and loads of them were probably crap, but that doesn’t matter. It’s between the crew and the cutting floor.

 

The not-so-family-movie Ending

Another fun fact about this movie:

The original writer wrote the “unhappy” ending where the parents don’t get back together. The producers didn’t like it, they wanted a happy ending, so they fired her and tried with other writers. None of the rewritten endings where any good though, so they ended up going back to the first writer’s version and re-hired her.

That is a huge win for the screenwriter I might add.

In any case I do not thing it is an unhappy ending. It is the only ending there could ever be.

 

What mood should you be in?

For something childishly funny. You have to be in a mindset where you believe that a person could get away with such a ploy. Or else you will just scoff at the entire film.

The director, Chris Columbus, let Robin Williams have free reign during the takes and there where loads and loads of takes where Robin would try loads of different stuff. He has stated that there was so much footage that they could’ve made an edit for every rating category that exists.

I don’t know about you, but an adult version of Mrs. Doubtfire, in lieu of the sequel that was in the early stages before Robin Williams’ death, is something that I would love to see.

 

Further watching

As we now have to come to terms with the fact that Robin Williams is gone and there is nothing we can do about it, I find myself wanting to watch all of his movies over again. Among my favourites are “The Fisher King” (1991), “Dead Poets Society” (1989), “Hook” (1991) and “Good Will Hunting” (1997).

I will also be checking out some of his work that I haven’t seen yet. Especially “World’s Greatest Dad” (2009) is one that I am looking forward too.

In the mood for some more drag? Check out the Australian “The Adventures of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert” (1994), the British “Kinky Boots” (2005) or the American “The Birdcage” (1996) which stars Robin Williams as well, although not in women’s clothing.

If nothing else, you can do some set-jetting in San Francisco and go find the Hillards’ family house on the east side of the 2600 block of Steiner Street at the corner of Broadway.

 

You can read an article from the author Anne Fine about Robin Williams in the Guardian here!

Every month I will be revealing another Guilty Pleasure and try to discover why it has become one (at least for me). Follow my blog and don’t miss out on the next post 😉

 

Scott Capurro, Robin Williams and Harvey Fierstein in Mrs Doubtfire

Scott Capurro, Robin Williams and Harvey Fierstein making Mrs Doubtfire

Who am I?

I’m a freelance writer who likes to watch movies. Sometimes I will even like “the bad movies”, the ones the critiques scoff at and the snooty film students will refuse to watch because it’s all so commercial. Those are some of the best movies. They are guilty pleasures, and they will save you on a rainy day when you just don’t want to think.

In these Guilty Pleasure blog posts, I will explore the movies I find myself turning back to again and again for comfort.

Want more Guilty Pleasures? Check out last months Guilty Pleasure – “Shakespeare in Love”!

 

Why do I think I can talk about movies?

With an over average interest in movies since watching Star Wars as an 8 year-old, and with some background in the industry, I know at least a little bit about what it takes to get a movie made, and have loads of opinions about what makes them great.

But no matter my merits, it is whether or not you agree with my taste in movies (or my boyfriend’s, whose opinion will be noted if opposing my own) that will make these reviews beneficial to you.

 

Where can you find the film?

You should have this, own it and cherish it! You should force your kids to watch it over and over again until they know the lines by heart.

So just buy it!

 

If you like what I write you can follow my blog and always know what movies to go for and what movies to avoid 😉

Next week, we will again take a look at the ImdB top 250 and review number 4, “The Dark Knight”. Check out number 3 on top 250, “The Godfather, Part II” here!

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