World’s Greatest Dad

Aug 28, 2014


“World’s Greatest Dad is pitch black, but it’s never mean, and I can’t help but thinking about it as the waves of appreciations and salutes roll in — not because there’s anything wrong with them, not at all, but because it’s inevitable that we think of people’s best selves when we grieve for them, smoothing over the more complicated, fallible figures they were when alive, looking at the ways (as I am here) in which they touched our own lives. Williams could be a brilliant performer and was, by all accounts, an incredibly generous colleague, friend, and human being, but he was also someone who struggled with addiction and depression that may have lead to him taking his own life — and he was open about his battles, most memorably, for me, in an amazing episode of the podcast WTF With Marc Maron from 2010 that wasrecently reposted.

Like many great comedians, Williams’ gifts for laughter seemed parceled with that inner darkness, and its acknowledgement of that pairing is one of the reasonsWorld’s Greatest Dad feels so resonant. It’s a role that showcases Williams’ underappreciated capacity for nuance — the scene in which he’s being comforted by a total stranger and can’t stop himself from giggling at the absurdity, a reaction the woman he’s talking to keeps mistaking for tears, passing him tissues. Or like this scene from the end (mild spoilers!), in which his face conveys such a quicksilver mix of sadness, regret, resignation, and the slightest touch of mischief. That clip doesn’t include the lines that follow, in voiceover, as the soundtrack kicks off the perfect song and a callback to earlier in the film: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worse thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” It’s an observation to break your heart, but the sequence that it’s a part of is filled with such complex but exhilarated joy and mourning all at once. It’s the kind of role Williams could pull off so well. God, he’ll be missed.”- excerpt from Alison Willmore’s piece on Buzzfeed.