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    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
  • 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
  • A Great moving movie!!!
    Very moving, emotional, and a perfect contradiction of today's patient...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
  • 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
  • A movie all doctors should see!
    This is one of my favorite movies. It shows that beyond science, there is humanity. All doctors should show as much compassion as in "Awakenings"; where the quality of patient care becomes the primary goal of every physician. "Awakenings" is a movie that illustrates that there is hope in any undertaking; for catatonic patients who haven't moved in decades, to their attending doctor who wants to see them recover, to the many patients in our country who suffer from disease, and those who wish to treat them....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
    This is one of the best films ever...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
  • 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
  • Brilliant but sad movie
    Awakening is a true story directed by Penny Marshall. It is a movie about people without hope, suffering from encephalitis. The movie starts and ends in Bronx, New York in 1969. Robin William plays the challenging role of a doctor who is expected to look after the affected patients, without an aim of making them get better. Against the will of his superiors, he tries a medicine originally meant for patients suffering with Parkinson's disease on one of his patients Leonard (Robert de Niro). After achieving an unexpected success on Leonard, he tries the same medicines on all the patients. There was a miracle as it worked out on everyone, and they start living a normal life, but after some time it starts showing its side effects on Leonard. This part in the movie was really very depressing, because it again took him back to that pitiable state, same as earlier, but the saddest part was that all other patients knew that they all will face the same situation after some time and the same thing happened to them.
    This movie was great but at the same time very depressing. Robin Williams and Robert de Niro play very impressive roles. One should definitely see this amazing movie.
    ...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

  • 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
  • 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
  • "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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Touching authentic movie
    Robin Williams plays more or less the same role as in ?Patch Adams?, only much less humoristic. Robert DeNiro is fantastic in the tragic role of the patient.

    This is another very touching movie about a group left behind. A group of people given a spark of hope, for a tiny moment in their lives. And it is a movie about the fantastic people devoting their lives to helping these helpless people.

    Very plain movie, without much extra this and that. Simply a story of one the cruel and darker side of this world's realities....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
    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
  • A moving revelation
    There is one scene I will always remember from Awakenings. It's when Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) sits on a bench at the zoo watching a large cat pace behind the bars, staring out at him but unable, of course, to leave its confinement. All it does is pace. And in a voiceover we can hear a Rilke poem, "The Panther," ("his gaze has been so worn by the procession...") And Sayer begins to understand what is going on in the minds of his catatonic patients; though their bodies are dead, their higher mental functions may not be.

    The focus is on one patient, Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro), who for years now has not moved or spoken or really given any sign that he is aware of the world. Sayer discovers, however, that with the use of a certain drug, L-dopa (usually given to people with Parkinson's), the catatonic people can begin to move and "come alive" again. Suddenly the psychiatric ward is full of people who have missed out on decades of their lives, and are trying to come to terms with that. More alarming yet is the fear that the drug's effects will be only temporary.

    Robin Williams delivers a deep, quiet performance as the introverted doctor, a loner who did research on earthworms before taking his position at the psychiatric ward. His work with his patients, particularly Leonard (who is the first to receive L-dopa), teaches the doctor humanity and encourages him to develop a friendship with Eleanor, a sweet and shy nurse (played by Julie Kavner - the voice of Marge Simpson). Robert De Niro is wonderful. He embraces the role completely, delivering it without artifice or bathos. As a whole the movie proceeds slowly, so it's not for the impatient viewer. If you let it, it will draw you in; it really is one of the finest films out there on the human mind and soul....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
  • Very touching film
    this film makes you respect doesn't go over the top it stays focused.ROBin Williams&Robert De Niro are solid thru out.while this past Decade hasn't been kind to both Actors in terms of roles this one is a Winner....more info
  • GREAT MOVIE A MUST BUY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have not seen this movie in years but when i did see it i think i saw it on hbo. This is such a great movie it is great for the whole family to enjoy and also it is based on a real life story. This is a MUST BUY!!!!!!!! GREAT MOVIE EASY FIVE STAR!!!!!!!!...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
  • Robin Williams' best dramatic film!
    A bearded Robin Williams co-stars with Robert DeNiro in this film based on a true story. Dr. Malcolm Sayer(Williams) applies for a position in the neurology lab in a new hospital. The patients are mentally disabled,one of them being Leonard Lowe(DeNiro). Leonard,until he receives his medication,is not very mobile and talkative. When he receives the medication,he acts and talks like any healthy human being. He meets a pretty girl(Penelope Ann Miller) at the hospital and takes romantic interest in her. His elderly mother(Ruth Nelson) was shockingly surprised about this. "He's never talked about girls or had anything to do with them.",she says. Leonard,in another scene,after taking the medication,takes the liberty of going for a walk. He is about to exit the hospital when two security guards forcefully stop him from exiting. Leonard's healthy phase doesn't last long. After the medication wears off,he's back to being almost immobile and silent. Other memorable scenes include Malcolm and Leonard wading in the open seas and eating ice cream on cones while sitting on a bench. Leonard's mother thought her son had Parkinson's disease. Malcolm told her Leonard's symptoms were similar to Parkinson's. One of the hospital nurses told Malcolm in another scene,"Dr. Sayer,it's a f---ing miracle!". The mentally ill patients were all healthy. They're even at a nightclub dancing. Another one of the ill patients is played by Anne Meara,Ben Stiller's mother. This film is based on the book by a real doctor named Oliver Sacks. Penny Marshall,late of TV's Laverne & Shirley directed this fantastic film. Marshall previously directed BIG starring Tom Hanks. By the way,this film was set in 1969. We hear The Zombies' hit TIME OF THE SEASON in one scene. Julie Kavner of TV's The Simpsons and late of Rhoda,plays Eleanor,one of the hospital nurses. Those who saw this film also saw many other films starring Williams and DeNiro,although this is the only one to date that they did together....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
  • 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
  • Wow
    I don't see how you can see this movie and NOT give it five stars. It absolutely wonderful. Wonderful performances by everybody in a heartbreaking, touching script. One of the few movies I've actually cried while watching (just thinking about it stirs tears, too). Although rated PG-13, there's hardly any swearing, no sex or nudity, and not much violence. It's just the subject matter. I would recommend it to everyone....more info
  • Awesome, A Classic in every sense
    This is an awesome movie. You have to see it to believe me...more info
  • A true classic
    One of the finest movies ever made. Williams and DiNero at the top of their game...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
  • The Power Of Acting
    This movie is probably one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Who'd of thought that Robin Williams and Robert De Niro could make as good a duo as this. The emotion let out in this film is like none I've ever seen before. Robert De Niro is amazing as the patient in the hospital. You wont hear a lot out of him in the first quarter but once he starts, you'll wonder is he's the one acting or not. The dramatic power int this movie is just amazing. So for those of you who like to be touched inside, grab a box of kleenex and prepare to shed some tears, this movie's for you....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
  • Williams + De Niro = Brilliant Film
    "What's this?" Leonard says as he turns the radio dial.
    "Rock music" Dr.Sayer tells him.

    Makes you wander if we appreciate the things we assume are suppose to (be, come out, or just happen) b/c that's the way it happens for everyone else. So if you don't really acknowledge that you appreciated what you had and unexpectedly lose that or those things, do you have the right to be angry at anyone or something for taking it away from you?

    This movie in a way; if you look at it at a different perspective than you would a normal movie makes you see that we take advantage of too many things and we could never in a million years make up all the (things) we have been too busy to say or have had the mind-set (that's the way it's suppose to be)...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
  • Learn from me!
    De Niro and Willaims had been friends for years and despite Williams's efforts to get the Charles Grodin part in "Midnight run", this would be their first time working together. De Niro plays Leonard, a man who has been catatonic for almost thirty years as the result of a childhood neurological illness. Williams plays doctor Sayer, who contrary to other doctors' opinion believes that Leonard and other patients are not necessarily vegetables, although they appear to be in a vegetative state. Through painstaking experiments with a new drug he manages to free them from their catatonic state. For some patients the transformation is permanent, but for others like Leonard, it is a frustatingly brief awakening. "Learn from me!" - he says hauntingly and poignantly to Sayer, as he is about to lapse back into somnolence. This is probably the most heartbreaking moment of the movie! The awakening is so tantalisingly brief that it's like a revelation or falling in love! It's when you watch these people who are totally immobilized that you realise how lucky you are. There are so many things in life that we take for granted: you're so depressed when you think about your tax return but you forget that there are people in this world who have to struggle every day to accomplish some simple gestures that appear so obvious to you, like getting up in the morning and comb your hair. If you lose some of your faculties, you really appreciate them better when you haven't got them anymore. And when you get them back, you feel so lucky. But when you lose them again you realise how precious some "trivial" things can be! I wasn't surprised to see Robin Williams giving an absolutely magnificient performance in this movie, cause I had seen him before playing this kind of character (remember "Dead poets society"?). But I was absolutely mesmerized by De Niro's performance: he has played so many monsters throughout his illustrious career, like Travis Bickle, Al Capone, Max Caddy or Rupert Pumpkin, but here he is now, showing a genuine warmth that people had never seen on screen before. Once again the man proved that if you give him a great script and when his powers of concentration are fully engaged he is simply unbeatable!...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
  • 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

    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
  • 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
  • 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
    "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


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