Awakenings [VHS]

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Based on the acclaimed book by neurologist Oliver Sacks, director Penny Marshall's hit 1990 drama stars Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer. Sayer is a neurologist who discovers that the drug L-Dopa can be used to "unlock" patients in a mental hospital from the mysterious sleeping sickness that has left them utterly immobilized. Leonard (Robert De Niro) is one such patient who awakens after being in a comatose state for 30 years, leaving Sayer to guide Leonard in adjusting to the world around him. Penelope Ann Miller costars as the daughter of another patient, with whom Leonard falls tenuously in love. Earning Oscar nominations for best picture, actor, and screenplay, this moving fact-based drama was a hit with critics and audiences alike. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • Good Movie
    This is a sad movie that sucks you in and you start wanting to be able to help the people in the movie. It is definitely worth watching....more info
    "Awakenings" is one of those movies that will touch most of the people due to the situations that the film shows. The movie is based on a book written by real-life neurologist Oliver Sacks, represented in the movie as Dr. Malcolm Sayer, played by Robin Williams. This is the story of a group of catatonic people living in the `60s, and the struggle of Dr. Sayer to save these people.

    It's really a shame that diseases like this can destroy the ability to fulfill the hopes and desires of the human beings, and "Awakenings" superbly captures on-screen the pain and suffer of the relatives of the affected people that can't fully enjoy their physical abilities.

    "Awakenings" displays excellent performances from Robin Williams, in one of his finest performances, and the magnificent Robert De Niro as well. However, the movie wouldn't had the same impact if the supporting cast wouldn't delivered such fine performances as they did on "Awakenings", everybody on this movie contributed to print a remarkable realism to the movie.

    "Awakenings" is a film that will provoke several feelings, will provide clean entertainment and will make people reflect about the value of life, because the human life could be limited or finished at any time....more info

  • Williams & DeNiro are Great!
    Robert DeNiro in a totally different role as a boy who awakens from a coma, after many years, as a man! Williams as the doctor who tries desperately to revive other patients like DeNiro and then act as a father and mentor to each. Then later Williams tries everything humanly possible to keep his patients from relapsing to their former coma state.

    The scene where DeNiro wakes up for the first time and puts his arms out with a big smile is one of my favorite movie scenes of all-time. This was probably Robin Williams best role ever!...more info

    This movie based on a true story is speaking to 'you'. Are you listening? Everytime I watch the movie, it increasingly awakens my thankfulness for the gift of life....more info
  • Miracle in New York--a Miracle from Hollywood
    I don't know how this wonderful movie ever got made. It's not a feel good movie. It's got Robert DeNiro but he's not playing a tough guy. It's got Robin Williams but he's not being funny. But I'm glad that whoever pushed for it did so. And I'm glad Hollywood relented. AWAKENINGS is a quietly powerful movie of enormous depth and passion. Anyone who has seen the movie has been affected by it.

    Based on Oliver Sack's book, AWAKENINGS recounts the story of a miracle that occurred in a New York hospital during the mid-1960s. Bucking the system and believing in his theory, Williams' character brings back a dozen patients who appear catatonic--DeNiro being one of them. Through massive applications of the drug L-Dopa, the patients revive and take sheer joy out of just simple tasks. Although the sad ending has been given away by others, I feel the film remains a positive story. It is about human endurance and also about the joys we some times take for granted....more info

  • A Preview of the Decade of the Brain - the 1990's
    Penny Marshall directed a fascinating movie when she brought to screen Oliver Sacks' book AWAKENINGS. It captures New York City beautifully during the early part of the century, and later in the 1960's. The story unfolds around the doctor based on Oliver Sacks. The patients represent a true 'awakening' that occurred in New York with the drug L-Dopa. This event has become so important in the history of medicine that a Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Arvid Carlsson, mentioned this event in his Nobel Lecture in the year 2000. Penny Marshall had a tremendous vision bringing this event to screen in 1990. It is an incredibly moving film....more info
  • Teaching high school psychology: Neurological functioning and life in a chronic hospital circa 1969
    I use this film in a basic survey course to help explain many aspects of neurological research and treatment. Although seen as "syrupy" by professional film reviewers, a teacher can use this film's use of "one idea at a time" in a successful unit plan. My students range from those with learning disabilities who are mainstreamed to AP-level teenagers. All of the students love this film on so many levels; the exchange of ideas is fantastic. Use it in your classes!...more info
  • Moving and meaningful
    An incredibly moving and touching story that speaks on many levels. DeNiro and Williams do a wonderful job at making this story poignant and believable.
    Based on a true story it tells the work of a reclusive and emotionally isolated researcher who works with patients who are initially introduced to him as incurable. These patients are unable to talk and unable to move and in away reflect the social isolation that the doctor-hero suffers. The doctor stumbles on not only to similarities in these patients medical backgrounds but a possible cure for their affliction. The cure is indeed successful but only for a brief time.
    The movie is a great metaphor for the human condition, a commentary on the challenges of medical advancements (challenges which are not only academic but sometimes monetary and political) and also gives some insight into the mind of a scientist and why some of them suffer from what many would see as eccentricities and social isolation.
    ...more info
  • Superb
    Robin Williams turns in a lovely, quiet, understated performance which is extremely effective. De Niro, as usual, completely immerses himself in his character, and is truly heart-breaking to watch. The supporting cast and direction are excellent. If you're in the mood to be truly moved, this is the movie for you....more info
  • Terrific Movie
    This was one of the best movies I ever had the pleasure of watching. It is a true touching story and it is very moving. Boh Robin Williams and Robert De Niro put forth excellent performances. Although, Robert DeNiro should take all the glory for this one. He portrayed his part beyound stellar. Two Thumbs up all the way!...more info
  • Excellent Film
    Certainly worth seeing. This film is extremely moving, but never crosses the line into corny or sappy--a rare combination. Fine acting throughout, a compelling storyline, and genuinely haunting, not trite. Do not let this movie's status as a tear-jerker deter you from an otherwise excellent movie with a wonderful cast....more info
  • Absolutely Fantastic - One of Robin Williams' best!!!!!
    For Robin Williams to play this painfully shy, introverted Doctor is extraordinary and the best indication of Mr. Williams' acting ability. The movie is charming, moving, fun and otherwise delightful. Absolutely, one of my favorite's!...more info
  • My absolute favorite'll enjoy it, too!
    Robin Williams, Robert DeNiro, & Julie Kavner star in this film based on the book (Go get that is wonderful, also!). Robin Williams is super as a doctor fighting the systems that exist in basic hospital red-tape. His character tries to show what is possible in health care if ideas are just given a chance! Please check this film and book out!...more info
  • A really sad but uplifting movie
    Robin Williams is incredible- so is Robert DeNiro. This movie is sad to the point of tears, but it also shows amazing human drama. It is a lot like "Lorenzo's Oil" in the fact that it is hard to watch, but it is definitely worth it. Watching Williams play this research doctor with no people skills is almost funny, but he plays the role awesomely- you don't doubt it for a minute. It is one of the best movies I have ever seen....more info
  • Awakenings
    A true story about desparate research into a tragic medical condition, brought to life beautifully. Sad, but thought provoking, it stays with you long after the movie is over. Watch it with a box of Kleenex....more info
  • It will bring you out of the darkness!
    After viewing this film over fifty times since its release I would say this film is my absolute favorite. It belongs at the top of my list. From the first moment of the movie, you understand that you are in for the emotional roller-coaster ride of your life! Robert de Niro and Robin williams, are so passionate and give their absolute greatest performances. By some standards this film would be considered slow if you solely like all the other films I have reviewed (Click my name). But to say that is a slander to the film, the writer Oliver Sacks (The book) , Penny Marshall the Director, and all others involved. It will give you a more wholesome outlook on life and appreciate what you have. Some things are down-right halarious, while other moments make you think (And believe me the moving Film-Score will make you think!) Don't get me wrong, some of you will not like this movie, because it takes a certain taste to like it...But for the chosen-few who will give this film a shot and go with it, you will be blessed beyond measure. "Its just the simple things...You have to be reminded...The meaning of Life...The Wonder of life...The Freedom of life...!"...more info
    Just think if your life was stopped much like someone using a remote control "pause" button - only to have it started with a push of "play" for a short time and then crucially and finally returned back to the paused state. The movie Awakenings, based on the neurologist Oliver Sacks book, does just that. In it Williams as Dr Malcolm uncovers a drug called L-Dopa that can be used to "start" patients from their immobilized state of being. Only to have them return to their previous state after the drug loses its effectiveness. Regardless of the final outcome of these patients, ultimately, it is the journey of the doctors, patients and their families that makes this movie so special.
    Especially the chemistry that forms between the Williams and DeNiro.

    There is one scene that will never leave my mind. It is when Dr Malcolm completes the black-n-white checked pattern on the hospital floor for a patient he is attempting to help. Look for it when you watch it and you will see what I mean. It's special.

    If you like dramas that make you think, (even if they don't always have a happy ending) then this is your type of movie
    It's a buy...more info
    This is one of the best films ever...more info
  • Very Touchy
    This movie deserves much more publicity than this. Both Robert De Niro and Robin Williams are great actors and they both did a great job... you feel their emotions are so close and real.

    This type of movie lives with you for days after you watch it. And you just can't stop thinking of it. And what makes it more powerful is that it is a real story. This movie has no special effects at all except for its highly driven emotions.

    I truly recommend watching this movie....more info

  • Open your eyes to this beautifully touching film...
    If ever I feel like I need a good cry (my wife is always saying I am such a girl, but I appreciate the need for emotional release) then this is one of the four or five films I readily reach for (the others being `The Elephant Man', `Million Dollar Baby', `Of Mice and Men' and the mediocre yet emotionally draining `I Am Sam'). If Ron Howard is the king of schmaltz then Penny Marshall is the queen, for she understands, like Howard, how to create a heavy-handed manipulative film feel natural and inviting. This film slides down smooth as can be, despite the fact that each and every frame is designed to antagonize our emotions.

    `Awakenings' is based on the book written by neurologist Oliver Sacks. The book is based on the true story of neurologist Malcolm Sayer who discovers that a drug called L-Dopa has the ability to release patients suffering from encephalitis (a sleeplike sickness), unlocking their minds and allowing them to interact with loved ones for the first time in years. One such patient is Leonard Lowe, who has been suffering from encephalitis for thirty-some years.

    The film would have been less effective if acting giants Robert De Niro and Robin Williams hadn't been cast as the two leads. Many have made claims that Williams was unfairly overlooked come awards season for his tamed and controlled portrayal of Malcolm Sayer, and while I loved him I have to agree with the Academy for choosing De Niro's heartbreaking performance over Williams'. Williams and De Niro are perfect compliments, but De Niro is the more memorable revelation if you ask me. As Lowe, De Niro is able to attach himself to our hearts, cycling through his newfound emotions as the drugs begin to work and he rediscovers everything he had feared he's lost. This is such a marvelously constructed performance and De Niro, when you consider the competition, really should have walked away with that Oscar.

    The supporting cast is also at the top of their game; everyone from John Heard, Ruth Nelson and Penelope Ann Miller delivering memorable performances.

    The film is beautifully shot and directed, allowing the audience to really feel invested in all that is going on. Marshall has a tight grip on the story and on our emotional response and she reins us in when needed and lets us loose when necessary. The film has flow, a flow that compliments each scene marvelously.

    Be forewarned; while this film has its heartwarming and uplifting moments it is also tragically depressing and heartbreaking. If you are not a crier, or do not like to cry then you may want to stay away from this movie; but if you appreciate a movie that can move you then this is a beautiful example of emotional purity at its finest. The final frames may wreck you, but it may be just what the doctor ordered. It's movies like this that validate our humanity, for if they didn't move us then it may be time to check our pulses....more info
  • EXTRAORDINARY!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Extraordinary,great,interesting movie about people.Robin Williams is wonderfull and sweet,and De Niro is simply perfect as a patient who is awake after 35 years.Every human have to see it!...more info
  • Outstanding Movie
    This was one of the most outstanding movies I have ever seen. I have just resently seen this movie for the first time and I could watch it over and over again. I was touched by this movie,and was inspired in so many ways! I give it 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone....more info
  • Extraordinary Insights Into Paying Attention/Brain Chemistry
    "Awakenings" with Robin Williams provides extraordinary insights into the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) which govern such concepts as paying attention, waking up, falling asleep, human movement, memory and other areas. The movie, based on the book by Oliver W. Sacks, M.D., is in the same category as A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked (Dilantin) by Jack Dreyfus and How To Cure Hyperactivity (aka ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder)(Journey to Understanding)(FDA approved caffeine compound which reduced distractibility and increased attention span) by Dr. Anita Uhl Brothers, M.D., and C. Thomas Wild. The movie "Awakenings" displays how these improvements are directly related to how long the medicine works effectively which is often far shorter than is hoped for or expected yet these observations match those of others, that is, many improvements are too often only temporary but quite real suggesting the need for more research to eventually overcome these enormous challenges....more info
  • It'll Open Your Eyes
    I've seen many films similar to "Awakenings". Underdog doctor discovers special patients, learns to communicate with and help them, fights evil system, triumphs, declared hero. Yet I have found no film of that nature to rival "Awakenings", and not only because the good doctor's triumph doesn't last. The beauty of "Awakenings" is that it never becomes precious or schmaltzy; it succeeds, as films rarely do, in truly getting behind the eyes of the characters, in asking questions about life and humanity without being pretentious. "Awakenings" is real, it is beautiful. It documents the human spirit and gives the viewer much more than eye candy or Saturday night entertainment. Credit is due to Robert de Niro and Robin Williams, who turn in astounding performances, as well as to director Penny Marshall and screenwriter Steven Zaillian. Julie Kavner ("The Simpsons") and Penelope Ann Miller also contribute sympathetic performances. A multi-Oscar nominee, "Awakenings" is one of the best films of the '90s....more info
    ROBIN WILLIAMS IS WONDERFUL AS ALWAYS.ROBERT D.gave an outstanding performance. This movie is full of hopes,dreams and unanswered questions about life. It will have you cheering, laughing, hoping,wishing and crying for both men. It will tug at your heart and make you smile. Makes you wish more doctors today would have the engery,kindness,caring and love this doctor had. You must see this movie!!!!!! I've seen it 9 times. You will want to add this to your collection. File it under "HUMAN KINDNESS FOR OTHERS"....more info
  • "for him, it's as if there were thousands of bars and behind the thousands of bars no world..."
    Awakenings grabs your attention from the very beginning and it never lets go. The plot moves along at a good pace and the acting is superb. Moreover, this film is somewhat based on the real life experiences of Dr. Oliver Sacks, a prominent psychiatrist. The cinematography is excellent and the choreography also shines; this is not a film you'll forget anytime soon.

    When the action starts we meet a healthy young boy named Leonard Lowe (Anthony J. Nici) and two of his friends playing and going to school in the 1930s. Unfortunately, Leonard develops an illness so disabling he cannot write his exams in school. Leonard must stay home every day and he becomes more and more ill over time. We then flash forward to the summer of 1969 to meet Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) who, despite his relative lack of clinical experience, gets hired to practice psychiatry at a hospital in The Bronx area of New York City. Dr. Sayer's coworkers, including the doctors, think very little of him; and Sayer's only friend is one of the nurses named Eleanor Costello (Julie Kavner). Many of the patients in the chronic care hospital have been either comatose or unresponsive for decades; and clearly the staff has given up on them. Nevertheless, Sayer and Nurse Costello do extensive chart research and they find that many if not all of the patients had encephalitis when they were younger--could this be a clue as to how to treat them?

    Sayer thinks he has an answer that can help the patients; but his boss and colleagues bristle when he suggests using a drug called L-Dopa. Sayer thinks that this drug could help the patients at the hospital although it was designed to treat entirely different disorders. Dr. Sayer bravely insists that at least one patient should be allowed to try the drug on an experimental basis; and thus the now grown up Leonard Lowe (Robert DeNiro) is given the drug.

    Much to the delight of Sayer, Leonard "awakens" from his relatively catatonic state and experiences the change in the world that has come about during his nearly thirty years of being "away." Leonard is shocked that he is now a man; and his mother Mrs. Lowe (Ruth Nelson) is sometimes hurt when Leonard wants to spend time with a woman instead of her! Leonard also wants to go for a walk alone outside the hospital; but even Dr. Sayer is worried that he could be taken advantage of all alone in the real world without some supervision.

    Yes, even more patients get better with the proper dosages of the drug L-Dopa. But will things stay that way? Watch the movie and find out!

    In particular, the performances in this film are unforgettable. Robert DeNiro is stellar as the grown up Leonard Lowe; and Robin Williams surely does a huge stretch from being the funny, wacky comedian to playing the role of a somewhat nerdy doctor in this movie. Julie Kavner also turns in a convincing performance as the one staff member who truly believes in Dr. Sayer.

    Awakenings deserves to be in your DVD collection. This film will appeal especially to people like me who have worked with troubled or sick individuals in hospitals or clinics; and people who enjoy human interest stories will appreciate this motion picture as well.
    ...more info
    A moving masterpiece that shows that Miracles still exist. A
    wonderful true story with giant stars (Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro) filling giant shoes. Both who deserved oscars for their powerful roles. Load up on the kleenex. I certainly could watch this film over and over again....more info
  • The Simple Thing's
    'Awakenings' has been my favorite movie for a long time now, but it hasn't always been so. I suppose it took a bit of maturing, and maybe a couple years of vigorous movie watching to come to the conclusion that this is my favorite.

    Robin Williams plays a realistic, tender, giving person named Doctor Sayer. His innocence and humbleness in the movie is something that baffled me all through my younger years. How could the crazy Robin Williams pull of something so real? Well, I was unknowing to his other accomplishments prior to that time. Movies such as 'Good Morning, Vietnam' and 'Dead Poets Society' had already been added to his filmography. The Robin Williams I knew had only been in movies like Popeye and little show called Mork and Mindy. Since 'Awakenings' he has done amazing performances in both the dramatic, and comedic realms. Soon to be added to his list of talent's is the "Serial Killer" in Insomnia. What an amazing actor. Also see his dramatic acting in 'What Dreams May Come'.

    Julie Kavner is someone who I have recently discovered. How could I not have placed her voice with that of Marge Simpson. Well, to put it mildly I had a duck when I put that together. Her list of accomplishments include the honest movie 'This is My Life' and, of course The Simpsons.

    Robert Deniro will never (mark my words) be able to top his sacrificial performance as Leonard. Not even his classic and raw character in 'The Deer Hunter' came close to Leonard. From being totally motionless to having his body wracked with the gripping illness, he is totally believable, and never allows the viewer to doubt he isn't for real. The fact that he didn't win an oscar is a tragedy.

    Based on Dr Oliver Sack's true life experiences in the late 60's, 'Awakenings' the book is written in chapters titled by the patient's name. Most memorably "Lucy" and "Leonard." It tells of his experiments with the drug "L-dopa" (a synthetic dope) to attack the sickness from a Parkinson's Disease(p?rkn-snz) stand-point.

    Amidst the powerful words of the movie (so many, of which you must discover on your own) is the amazing musical score by Randy Newman, who righfully won his first oscar in 2003 for best original song. He shows his tallent for creating emotional and entirely unique compositions. This movie has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Unfortunately the soundtrack is hard to find.

    There are movies, epic's mostly, that people are accustomed to watching over and over. I have seen 'Awakenings' between 50 and 100 times, and with every viewing learn and appreciate something new about life. Penny Marshall's project was bigger than her, bigger than the actors, bigger than the screen. Her insight made it that way. She created something that she will never be able to re-do or re-capture. Though her movies like 'A League of Their Own' and 'Big' are great classics worth owning, the emotional and spiritual depth of 'Awakenings' is something that only It can do. When you watch this, my favorite film, reflect on your own life. How much you have. How much you could loose. This is a learning experience that everyone should own. ~S.A.O.S.~...more info

  • DeNiro, Williams in a poignant human drama
    Undeniably one of the industry's most underrated directors, Penny Marshall attained lofty heights in 1990 with this poignant and true drama about one doctor's (Robin Williams, in a brilliant dramatic performance) awakening his own soul to the risk of love while literally awakening patients in a New York chronic care hospital in the late 1960's. Based on Dr. Oliver W. Sacks' novel of the same time and based on his professional experience, "Awakenings" is one doctor's triumph in identifying (by accident) the correct chemical balance in the drug L-Dopa to bring sufferers of a sleeping sickness that totally immobilizes them to life. As Leonard, Robert DeNiro is the shiniest of the wonder drug's triumphs, and DeNiro glimmers in one of the most compelling and humane performances of his magnificent career. But the miracle begins to wane all too soon, and both Dr. Sayer and Leonard painfully prepare for the day when Leonard and his fellow sufferers lapse again into their immobilized state. The film's scenes that lead to that devastation are real, honest and painfully moving and don't insult us with phony sentimentality. But in the process, Leonard instills in his and his fellow patients' caregivers a sense of humanity for their suffering, and Dr. Sayer manages to find the courage to risk loving something other than his work. In a supporting role as the object of Leonard's rediscovered love, Penelope Ann Miller is tremendous. It is little wonder the film was a favorite with multiple Oscar nominations, and DeNiro and Williams are at their best here. But it is director Marshall's vision of the fragility of human life and love and the power of that which is the focus of her film, and her vision is powerfully moving and humbling....more info
  • An Uplifting Film about the Limits of Consciousness
    _Awakenings_ is one of the better movies that I have seen recently. It is based on the real-life story (and book) of Oliver Sacks and his extraordinary work with "sleeping-sickness" patients in the 1960s. In a preview to his work in _Patch Adams_, Robin Williams turns in an outstanding performance as a doctor who refuses to write off the consciousness and humanity of his patients in the neurology ward to which he has recently been appointed. If that wasn't enough, Robert Deniro comes on the scene halfway through the film and delivers a stunning performance that yanks the rug out right out from underneath Williams. His performance is very moving and never fails to get to me.

    While his Dr. Sayer's (Williams) techniques and experiments are, from a modern perspective, unethical and surprising, one never doubts his intentions and care for his patients. The movie really churns up debate over the "personhood" of human beings that are in a vegetable state. To whom do we grant consciousness? How can we tell? What are the limits of personality? Dr. Sayer's tireless work with these patients and brief success truly challenge many of our assumptions about medical patients and their rights. Fortunately, Hollywood did not screw this movie up and the film does not end in typical Pollyanna fashion. If you like emotional films, inspirational stories, or the acting of Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, you cannot go wrong with this film. ...more info
  • A stunning film, must-see for all.
    Director Penny Marshall's Awakenings is being promoted as a "hurrah for the handicapped" movie, but it's much more than that. Derived from an account published in 1973 by neurologist Oliver Sacks, this too-strange- not-to-be-true story is magical because it doesn't really try to be - as

    Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams), the miracle-working character based on Dr. Sacks, says, "We have to adjust to the realities of miracles."

    The realities, as dramatized in Steven Zallian's script, are these: In 1969, Dr. Sayers accepts employment at a chronic-care hospital in the Bronx and is mysteriously drawn to a group of catatonic patients referred to as "living statues." Convinced that the patients are cognitively and emotionally alive, despite their external fossilization (some have been immobile for more than 30 years), he investigates their histories. At first, he is stymied by the guesswork diagnoses on record - "atypical schizophrenia"; "atypical hysteria" - and mutters to his nurse (Julie Kavner), "You'd think at a certain point, all these 'atypical' somethings would amount to a 'typical' something." They do: Dr. Sayer discovers that the statues have in common an episode of viral encephalitis.

    The miracle is this: Aware that the experimental compound L-DOPA has proved effective as a treatment for Parkinsonism, a disease Dr. Sayer believes resembles the condition in which his statues find themselves, he proposes using the drug on one of them, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro), a middle-aged man who began "disappearing" into brief episodes of paraylsis at the age of 11 and was permanently hospitalized nine years later, in 1939. When the drug "awakens" Leonard, Dr. Sayer asks for permission to prescribe it to the rest of his post-encephalitic patients.

    At this juncture, Awakenings itself awakens - it sloughs off the "hurrah for the handicapped" genre and becomes a movie about the handicap of the human condition in general. Unfortunately, it's impossible to discuss what transpires next without giving the story away, but it can be reported that the subsequent events, for all their atypical specificity, become a blanket metaphor for typical human life (much of which is spent sleepwalking) - it's evident that Dr. Sayer was "mysteriously" attracted to the statues because he is one of them.

    Marshall, director of Big and, in another life, Laverne on Laverne and Shir ley, elicits performances from Williams and DeNiro that are exceptional. The former, who can't help being funny, is profoundly serious as the emotionally stunted physician unable to heal himself, and the latter, who can't help being serious, is profoundly funny as the emotionally open patient able to heal his physician. The two strong men are complemented by two stronger women, Kavner as the doctor's sympathetic nurse, and the aged Ruth Nelson (her career began in 1926) as the patient's patient mother. Awakenings is a small, simple movie about a large, complex issue, the waste of human opportunity. It could have been made by Thornton Wilder's Emily, who dies at the end of Our Town and from the cemetery exhorts the living to come fully alive. Conrad Alton, Filmbay Editor....more info
  • L Dopa Really Fixed Me Up!
    I think "Awakenings" is a good dramatization of the real life scientific study as presented in the book. But I'm more interested in the scientific story than a dramatazation of it that creates a love interest and basically has Robin Williams playing the role he'd redo in Patch Adams (albeit of course much better in "Awakenings") than actually relive the life of the renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks who is of course fictionalized here and wrote the book. And the portrayal of people with disabilities takes the usual Hollywood stereotypes, they are shuffling zombies who lack humanity, their humanity is restored by a "miracle" (hate that word) drug L-Dopa and then lose it again but there is a hint they were human all along. Well to tell you the truth I know this may blow your mind but having a disability is something we all will experience or may already and all people should be considered human. However, it is true this was a clinical study and its accurate that that is how people are seen in a study or certainly by medical science at the time but as a survivor of tardive dyskinesia and tardive psychosis (a condition still in study), both Parkinsonian conditions although in this case enduced by neuraleptics who has had it treated by new medications in study (as well as study anti-psychotics that can't create these conditions) and began to recover, in experiencing this kind of recovery first hand (the movement disorders depicted in "Awakenings" are startingly similar to those I have and are well depicted)I found the original book and enlightening and did find the film moving I must admit but it got a bit maudlin and took liberties with the book. However, more importantly, it seemed out of the scope of this movie and much Hollywood fare that a person with this form of disability could not only be a part of society but could advocate for treatment and to recover. And I would hope that that could be changed. But as in the movie "hope" didn't get people anywhere. Scientific research in a humanistic fashion of which I am an active participant in and advocate did and when I look at "Awakenings" in this light yes there is something moving about but more in the spirit of the original research, not at at all as a "failed" experiment but one to build on so more people can recover as I did. And there is no time for "miracles" as with the original research it only gets in the way of what is ahead....more info
  • I'm awake, thanks to this wonderful film!
    `Awakenings' is truly one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming films I've ever had the experience to see. Starring two brilliant actors, Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, `Awakenings' gives us a tragic true story that will open our minds and ours hearts for the full two-hour running time. The story of Doctor Sayer's (Williams) as he tries to cure some 15 patients in his ward is sure to strike many a chord. This film as been hailed by critics and has been loved by Oscar so why not everyone else.

    The film opens with a young boy named Leonard. Leonard is getting very sick, so sick he can't move his hands. It's heartbreaking to watch him try and hide his sickness, placing his schoolbook under his desk so the teacher won't find out his disability (by seeing how messy his handwriting has become).

    Fast-forward to the year 1969 when Doctor Sayer is hired as the new neurologist at a chronic clinic. Upon arriving and beginning his work he sees that these patients suffering from a disease that makes them immobile and unable to speak, may not be as incurable as the other staff believe. Linking all the patients to post-encephalitis he decides to administer one patient, Leonard (De Niro) with L-Dopa, a drug used for Parkinson's patients, in an effort to reverse his crippling disorder. Miraculously the medicine works and Leonard is able to move again for the first time in thirty years. As the remaining patients are given the drug there is an air of false hope, hope that all is better.

    As time passes Leonard falls in love for the first time with Paula (Penelope Ann Miller), a young woman who visits her father who has suffered a stroke. The two of them form a bond that is touching to watch. Time though also brings bad news. The medicine doesn't seem to work passed a certain point and Leonard's condition is worsening. He suffers from uncontrollable ticks and mood swings and it's apparent that what they deemed a miracle may indeed be the opposite.

    This film shows us the value of life, the lives we all take for granted. Listening to Leonard speak of how wonderful it is to be alive is truly inspiring, and watching a man with nothing but life to live get robbed of the chance is heartbreaking to say the least. As Leonard learns he also teaches, helping Sayer's, a man who is repressed and reclusive, break out of his shell and understand that life is only life if you live it. The second half of this film will take out your heart and tear it to shreds, and the fact that De Niro is so wonderful in this film doesn't help in the tearjerker department. Falling in love with Leonard will only make the final frames worse, but it's unavoidable. The film is done brilliantly, each frame adding layers to the films message and importance. There's one scene in particular that really touched me. The first time Leonard is outside since awakening we see him walking down the steps and it shows a close up view of his feet, and as he walks down we see a young child walkig up with her mother and it's clear the connection. Subtle yet so touching.

    One of the greatest films I've ever scene!
    ...more info
  • A revelation
    Dramatization of the book by Dr. Olive Saks, it is the true account of a research project taken on by Dr. Sayers (pseudonym) at a hospital for chronic neurological patients. These patients have been catatonic for years after having suffered some form of encephalitis. Dr. Sayres believes they have some degree of awareness and are not just vegetables and he has an idea on how to "awaken" them from this frozen state. The outcome of the research and the things learned from it are heartening in spite of appearing not to be. There are people "in there" and this is a film that should be seen and a book that should be read by everyone who has a loved one or family member in such a state, or in a coma, or in a so-called "vegetative" state. They might not be as unaware as we think. Also the medical community needs to be less tunnel-visioned. Not every medical "fact" this year will be a fact next year....more info
  • An Incredible, Haunting Story That Endures Like The Patients
    Here's a good example of how you can still make a great modern-day movie without profanity, violence or sex. It's also a movie which never stops being least to me.

    This is an amazing story, based on fact, about about a doctor who makes great progress fighting an illness that heretofore was considered incurable. These were patients in catatonic states, and the good doctor uses an experimental drug to snap these people back to reality and to a normal life as they once had. The patients, and how they react, both before and after the medications, is really fascinating.

    Robert De Niro is outstanding as one of the patients, but that's not a surprise knowing all the fine acting performances he's done over the years. Robin Williams, relatively new to dramatic acting when this came out, was also excellent in a very low-key role. Penelope Ann Miller is extremely sweet and appealing. I wish both she and Williams would do more roles like that.

    With multiple viewings, I came to appreciate the minor characters in here a lot more, such as De Niro's mother, played by Ruth Nelson, whom I fondly remember in the 1945 film "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn." What a treat is was to see her again and this was just two years before she died. Also, Alice Drummund as the patient known as "Lucy" was notable.

    Language-wise, i's almost stunning to watch a movie which has De Niro, Williams, Miller and John Heard and not hear one profane word uttered! (The film isn't perfect, however, as some idiot decided to insert one f-word, and in a totally unnecessary circumstance.)

    This is a memorable, haunting story and one I guarantee you won't forget because the subject matter is so different.
    ...more info
  • Great actors in a powerful film
    This is a great piece of work from two Oscar winning actors, Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. ...more info
  • Woh
    This the only movie that ever made me cry and kept me thinking about it a week after I saw it. You do not want to miss this. Robin Willaims is great and Robert De Niro is simply amazing as Leonard Lowe.This right away became a favorite of mine....more info
  • Very, very overlooked performance by Robin Williams
    I am an enormous fan of Robert DeNiro's. He is one of the greatest actors of all time, in my opinion. However, sometimes both that reputation and the showiness of a particular part overwhelms all the other performers in a particular film, robbing those performers of notoriety that is well deserved.

    This is especially true in Awakenings. DeNiro plays Leonard Lowe, a man who awakens from a 30 year coma, experiences life in 1969 New York, then tragically slips back into that coma by the end of the film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves to nominate performances like DeNiro's -- namely those where the actor has to simulate mental retardation, physical disabilities, fatal diseases or other handicaps. Some of these nominated performances are truly deserving of recognition, such as Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot, Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Tom Hanks in Forest Gump. However, many of these performances are not, such as Jodie Foster in Nell (Janeane Garofalo did a devastating parody of her performance on Saturday Night Live) and Ali MacGraw in Love Story. DeNiro's performance in Awakenings is much more of the former than the latter -- he is always good and his performance in this film is no exception. However, to me, the truly great performance in Awakenings is by Robin Williams.

    Williams plays DeNiro's physician, Malcom Sayer, a dedicated caring doctor who nonetheless is a shy, introverted loner who admits to Leonard at one point that he is "not good with people." In real life, Williams is so extroverted and so manic that in many of his performances that personality leaks out and intrudes on the characters he plays on film. In Awakenings, however, he completely submerges that persona and is 100% believable as the almost hermit-like Sayer. The central theme of the film is that Leonard Lowe, who has lost so much because of his affliction, is nevertheless living his life with ten times the gusto that Malcom Sayer, who has no afflictions other than his shyness, is living his life. If Williams is not absolutely believable as Sayer, the film falls apart, no matter how believable DeNiro is at portraying his character's illness. Williams is a wonderful actor who uses his comic gifts and manic personality to great advantage in his best work -- e.g. The World According to Garp, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting and Insomnia. However, this is Williams' first peformance where he is forced to completely submerge his own character and he succeeds brilliantly.

    However, when the Oscar nominations were announced for 1990, DeNiro was nominated and Williams was snubbed. Indeed, when the film was released, all the friends I spoke with marveled at DeNiro's performance but didn't say anything about Williams. It's too bad. To be sure, DeNiro is excellent in Awakenings, but Williams' performance is a revelation....more info
  • A Great moving movie!!!
    Very moving, emotional, and a perfect contradiction of today's patient...more info
  • Soul Touching
    Awakenings is one of the most beautiful movies you will have ever seen. It is a must. Made by Penny Marshall in 1990 Awakenings is based on the acclaimed book and real-life story of neurologist Oliver Sacks. Back in the 1960s, Dr. Sacks preformed some extraordinary work with his patients, who were diagnosed with various mental disorders. In the movie, Dr. Malcolm Sayer (played by extraordinary Robin Williams) refuses to write off the consciousness and humanity of his patients in the mental hospital where he had recently been appointed.
    Dr. Sayer, a lover of books and music, is an introverted and shy person who is "not very good with people" and even fears the friendly dog of his neighbor. However, he is an extremely compassionate human being who loves his patients and refuses to accept the previous diagnoses given over many decades to them by their various doctors. Thus, he keeps an open mind and tries new ways to get through to his patients.
    One day, when he discovers that a new catatonic patient diagnosed with dementia catches up her glasses to prevent them from falling on the floor, he develops the theory that "they are alive inside". He tried to prove that theory by using a tennis ball to test similar patients who respond in the same way. When he shows his colleagues the patients' strange behavior saying that they were "borrowing the will of the ball", his colleagues make fun of him and walk away. Supported by his assistant, who shares his opinion, Dr. Sayer continues to follow his intuition and finds ways to get access to these patients through various means including music, a tennis ball, supported walking, stories, games, and patterns on the floor. He discovers that all of the patients with that same pattern of behavior suffer from the same disorder: encephalitis lethargica, which was caused by a virus about three decades earlier.
    When he discovers that the brain waves of one of his patient Leonard (played by Robert de Niro) respond when his own name is being called, Dr, Sayer feels his theory confirmed that his patients "are alive inside" regardless of what his colleagues say. He identifies L-Dopa as a possible new drug to be used in this case although it had been developed for Parkinson's disease. Furthermore, he pursues his boss to approve using the drug on Leonard and when Leonard's mother agrees, Dr. Sayer begins his healing experiment continuing to listen to his inner voice, which seems to dictate him the proper dosage for his patient. He succeeds and one night he wakes up to find Leonard sitting at a desk writing his name. Dr. Sayer continues his quest for healing and manages to bring back to life for one summer all of his patients. After falling in love with the daughter of one of the patients in the hospital, Leonard goes even so far to request his right to go alone for a walk when he wishes to. When his request is denied he becomes very upset and the drug almost stops to have its effect on him. Unfortunately, the drug ceases to work all together after a couple of months and all patients go back to they catatonic state.
    After noticing that all the news in the newspaper are negative, Leonard calls Dr. Sayer at home late one night. He wants to "tell them" that they "got it all wrong", "remind them that life is good" and that "people have forgotten what it means to be alive". Leonard points out that those who consider themselves to be healthy live actually in a deep trance and are victims of their self made social hypnosis. Although he lives in a biologically impaired body, which is dependent upon the drug, Leonard displays all the signs of a healthy person and seems more alive than most normal people. He encourages Dr. Sayer to "remind them how good it is... People have forgotten about what life is all about". In fact, almost all awakened patients show a zest for life and remind the others of the gifts they have and don't seem to appreciate enough. They want to go dancing, be beautiful, eat their favorite meals and connect with each other. They teach the normal people what it really means to have the gift of life.
    Dr. Sayer shows an incredible love of people especially his patients and remains undisturbed by the ironic remarks of his ignorant colleagues. He pursues his passion and manages to convince his manager and the patrons of the hospital to fund his new research. Dr. Sayer uses his intelligence and sensibility to access the souls of his very difficult patients. He doesn't give up until he succeeds. He is a very compassionate person, who plays the piano as a meditation and relaxation. He continues to grow and is in my view a self-actualizing person. Dr. Sayer believes in the human spirit that "is more powerful than any drug and that's what needs to be nourished"....more info
  • Excellent acting all around
    I read Oliver Sacks's remarkable book before seeing the movie, and was expecting the latter to depict some miraculous no-holds-barred cure; so I was pleasantly surprised by the treatment of the subject (no pun intended). Robin Williams is terrific and all the supporting cast is wonderful. I loved actually seeing how the encephalitis lethargica patients acted. The only reason this film doesn't get five stars from me is because of a couple of scenes that came across like a retread of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; otherwise, the characters pull the story off beautifully....more info
  • Williams and DeNiro shine!
    Based on the real life story of Dr. Oliver Sacks, 'Awakenings' ranks as one of the best movies I've seen. If features a terrific screenplay that was adapted from the book and a memorable directing job by Penny Marshall. But the most suprising thing to me was the choice of actors to play the two main roles in the movie. Robin Williams was pretty much known as the slightly insane comic genius from the 1980's, and Robert DeNiro was playing such hard-hitting, aggressive characters in films like 'Raging Bull', 'The Untouchables', 'Taxi Driver', and 'The Deer Hunter'. Both actors turn in career performances, and play parts that totally will smash any preconceived notions you had of them up to that point.

    The film is based on Dr. Leo Sayer(Williams) and his work with people who have come down with a mysterious sleeping-sickness in 1918, which has left them in a catatonic state. Dr. Sayer is a shy person who is not comfortable conversing with others, but is also a very dedicated neurologist. He starts to work with these "sleeping" people and thinks that he senses something in them that is alive deep inside. He begins to work with a man called Leonard Lowe(DeNiro), and takes a special interest in him. He reads up on the drug L-Dopa, which had helped people in similiar states as his patients, and tries to convince the hospital and Leonard's mother to try the drug on her son. They allow the test to happen, and Leonard wakes up from his "sleep". The drug is then tried on his other patients with similar results. You would think that it was a happy story from thereafter, but life is not full of Hollywood endings, and the story does not take the easy way out. It won't leave you depressed or exhilarated but somewhere in between, like life is most of the time.

    Definitely one of the best films to come out in the past 12 years, and should be in any serious movie buff's collection. There are no extra's on the DVD, but the quality of the picture is pretty good. But in the end, isn't it about the movie, not the extra's(by the way, I love the extra's just as much as everyone else). Marshall, Williams, and DeNiro have made a special film that they should be proud of and will be watched by generations to come....more info

  • Awesome, A Classic in every sense
    This is an awesome movie. You have to see it to believe me...more info
  • Facing the Incurable Disease
    I was in high school when i first saw this film while unwinding myself one evening from a school work. It was in a free tv channel in our local area that when i first saw this moving flick. Then years have passed, I bought this film straight from the video shop near in our place...from then, it became one of my favorite films for all-time.

    'Awakenings' is a story of hope, survival, and triumph of human spirit amidst of uncertainties in the fields of science and health. Two of the most notable and brilliant actors in their own right (and at the same time, included in my lists of favorite actors)...Robin Williams and Robert de Niro surfaces their award-winning performances in this film. Dr. Sayer magnificently played by Robin Williams which I truly commend him for being a versatile actor...not just a comedian but an actor whose different portrayals in his different movies gave an astounding performances with better execution. We saw Robin Williams played also as a doctor in 'Patch Adams' which is more humorous and spirited act but not in 'Awakenings' which branded more on a serious tone and in a sense 'geek' doctor. Nevertheless, he fairly overcome his pathetic character to become extreme but turning to a mild one.

    In Robert De niro's character as Leonard Lowe, who was contracted with a forgotten illness of 1920's did a great performance. It is likely believable for De Niro's part to be in this character as a patient of this illness. I was moved by his credible act for this movie.

    Penny Marshall should also be credited for a wonderful and moving performances of her actors and of course her unique directing gave way the very heart of this film.

    The film was dealing with an incurable disease of the 1920s which existed until the 1960's with no medicines that are able to cure them but Dr.Sayer tried to dare himself by experimenting with drugs that can cure basically Parkinson's disease and which is so uncertain also if it cures the disease that Leonard and others has. But lo, everybody 'awakened' from their long sleep. Leonard and the others experienced a short 'awakenings' in their life that particular summer but not for long...the disease came back and no matter how the drugs (that cured them before) prevent this, it is useless. Although the film deals with this disease there is something more incurable disease that revolves around the story or much more, it is the worse disease that humanity have ever contracted...the disease of indifference...

    Sayer was right in saying 'We are faced with incurable disease...that is indifference'...The film doesn't focus only on that particular disease but the the disease of indifference also. What makes life more simpler and happier that one cannot find in the facts of science and medicine? That is love and compassion...that makes life so simpler and yet so fulfilling. The joys of life that one can attain and live fully is given by the people we loved dearly and loved us and through this love one can cure the disease of indifference. 'Awakenings' speaks about this...

    I definitely recommend this to everyone...of all ages. So that you can find cure by giving your total and unconditioned love for your family and friends as well as others......more info

  • too many holes
    Mute and catatonic for 30 years a man who went into inner silence suddently with the use of a new drug regains use of his mental faculties and rebels.

    Speaking with the intellengence of someone who never was ill and who had substantial education for a man who never was schooled beyond age 10 because of his illness leonard outdo's expectations.

    But all is not as it seems...

    A good honest film but u'll feel cheated at the end of this 2 hr film...more info
  • Der Panther
    Based on a true story by the brilliant neurologist and writer, Oliver Sacks, "Awakenings" portrays lives of people who are rendered inert for decades from an earlier brain inflammation, encephalitis, and of the doctor who wouldn't give up on them. Dr. Sacks' books are filled with fascinating accounts of people who live with incredible brain aberrations, and "Awakenings" is no exception. Our own lives are enriched by this glimpse into the lives of human beings such those in this story/film. For human they are, despite their being frozen like statues in a wax museum. Dr. Sayers, played by Robin Williams, works tirelessly (well, actually he works so late that he falls asleep, so I guess he does get tired!) championing the cause of his patients and their treatment with the drug L-dopa, the new "cure" which he has discovered. Leonard, played masterfully by Robert Di Nero, struggles to live a full life again, enabled by the medication. In the process he not only demonstrates the human courage and drive to be truly alive, but he also teaches Sayers about the effects of the treatment over time. "Learn from me", he begs. The diligent but shy doctor also learns to express his awakening feelings by finally forming a relationship with his devoted nurse, Eleanor, played by Julie (Marge Simpson) Kavener. Kudos to all, including director, Penny Marshall!

    That's all I'm going to say--no "spoilers"--enjoy the film!

    Oh, and watch for Leonard's (De Niro's character) apt reference to the poem, "The Panther" (Der Panther), written by turn-of-the-century (19th) German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. The panther becomes so weary and dulled from the vision of the bars of the cage he is in that he can't "think" or feel anymore. This insightful poem is a favorite of mine, and I think that it captures quite well the situation of these people, held captive by the "bars" of their illness.
    ...more info
  • Tragic and compelling.
    This movie is a large blend of hope and disappointment, triumph and tragedy. A story about a sickness that basically leaves people as vegetables until a doctor makes a discovery. He is able to find a "healing" drug that brings these people "back to life." This movie is so uplifting and beautiful until the reality strikes. The people start to revert back and the medicine is stopped. De Niro and Williams are very good in their roles. Even with the tragic ending you know you have watched a very special story. If you aren't touched by this film you may want to see what's wrong with you!...more info
  • From the author of Tales of Ancient Xenar
    Yes, I saw this movie after it was released on VHS back in 1991. This movie wasn't one of Robin Williams' usual fare since comedy films are more his norm. But in this film, he performed well. This film was also different for its other actor, Robert DeNiro. Action films and Tough Guy films were more his norm. But in this film, he played a brain-disorder patient and played him very well.
    I once read a chapter in a text book and the events in this film are pretty accurately described in that text book chapter although the film leaves out a couple of fact. The disease suffered by the patients in this film is called Encephalitus Lethargica. And the name of the drug that was used to treat them was called L-dopa, but the text book calls it Levodopa. Of course now if you were to look up encephalitus lethargica on webmd, you'd get only articles about Parkinson's.
    But all in all, this was a good film. I would only give it 4 and a half stars, but since half stars cannot be given here, I'm foerced to give it a full 5....more info
  • De Niro And Williams at there best!!
    Robert De Niro and Robin Williams both did a great job in this movie. Robin Williams plays the role of a doctor, a very shy doctor at that! De Niro plays a patient with sleeping sickness who hasnt said a word or done anything on his own is 30 years.

    Robin Williams dedicates his time to finding a cure or at least something to help these patients like somewhat of a normal life. I dont want to ruin the movie for those who havent seen it some Im gonna stop there.

    But Robert De Niro does an excellent job with his role in this movie. He his famous for his roles in The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Heat, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, and Casino. In all of these movies he plays either a gangster or a bad@$$ of some sort. So seeing this movie really shows the acting ability that he has.

    I dont usually watch movies like this but I had De Niro in it so I had to watch it. And coming from someone who loves Gangster Movies; this is one of Robert De Niro's best performances and I recommend this movie to everyone, this is a must see!!!...more info

  • Penny Marshall's finest film.
    Awakenings is a depressing film but an important one to watch. Directed by Penny Marshall, Awakenings is based on a true story of patients who have come out of mental illness unscathed, well temporarily of course. Robert De Niro gives the performance of a lifetime and Robin Williams proves he is more than a funny, goofy actor. Penelope Ann Miller is stunning in this film as well, very under-rated actress. Give this '90s tearjerker a viewing, enjoy!...more info
  • Great movie!
    I purchased the movie Awakenings for an assignment for a college course. It is an excellent movie, with outstanding actors. This movie would be an investment for anyone, but especially those in the field of psychology or social work. It provides good entertainment while depicting a true story about the delicate and fragile lives of brain-damaged indivduals....more info


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