Barry Norman: 'Robin Williams was addicted to tooth-rotting sentimentality'

The film critic writes a disparaging tribute to the late actor

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The Independent Online

Film critic Barry Norman says Robin Williams was addicted to “saccharine, tooth-rotting sentimentality” during his lengthy career.

The British writer – who presented the BBC’s Film programme until Jonathan Ross replaced him in 1998 – said the late actor’s talent “could sometimes be spread so thinly as to be almost invisible”.

"If we forgive the bad films he is a great loss," Norman wrote in a column for Radio Times.

“"It’s hard to know what to make of Robin Williams. Admiration is called for, but also sadness, not just for his tragic death but for an enormous talent which, if not exactly unfulfilled, could sometimes be spread so thinly as to be almost invisible."

Williams was found dead on 11 August, after taking his own life through hanging, aged 63. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Video: Fans and stars remember Robin Williams  

The actor is known for his roles in Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Mrs Doubtfire, Hook and Good Morning Vietman.

"That’s a CV for which many a star would give his eyeteeth,” continued Norman. “But among the good films was a plenitude of bad ones. Well, every actor makes bad films occasionally but what was remarkable about Williams was not that he was so good in the good ones but that he was so very bad in the bad ones."

Norman lamented what he perceived as Williams’ poor choice in films, pondering whether or not these could have been linked to his addiction to drink and drugs.

"He made no secret of his addiction to drugs and alcohol but there was another addiction, which he never admitted but which became increasingly evident in his own work – to saccharine, tooth-rotting sentimentality," he said.

"Were the bad films made when drink or drugs played their part?"

He berated the actor for the “tearful sentimentality” of his character in Mrs Doubtfire, before launching into his disapproving take on 1998 film What Dreams May Come.

 “It was unrelentingly weepy and he was so cringe-inducing that if it were the only Williams film you ever saw, you would say, with confidence, that he would never make an actor.”

Williams had been suffering from severe depression at his time of death and Norman offers his reason as to why the actor suffered from mental health issues.

“You might also ask what caused a man of such gifts to rely so heavily on drink and drugs,” he wrote. “I once asked a noted Hollywood shrink why so many stars were addicted and she said it was probably because deep down they didn’t believe they deserved their fame and fortune and used stimulants and the like to ease their worry."