In this post, I'd thought I'd do a comparison between two like- for- like Robin Williams characters, who are similar to each other in many ways. I did one way back for Mrs Doubtfire's Daniel Hillard and Fathers' Day's Dale Putley and this one turns my attentions to the onscreen doctors/medics in Malcolm Sayer of Awakenings and Patch Adams of Patch Adams, respectively.
About Dr Malcolm Sayer
Malcolm Sayer is a shy research physician who uses an experimental drug to awaken catatonic victims of a rare disease
About Patch Adams
Hunter Patch Adams is a doctor who doesn't look, act or think like any doctor you've met before. For Patch, humour is the best medicine, and he's willing to do just anything to make his patients laugh - even if it means risking his own career
The differences and correlations made between Awakenings and Patch Adams:
- As a film, Awakenings is a full on drama, whereas Patch Adams is more of a dramedy type of film. Additionally, Awakenings moves at a much slower pace than Patch Adams
- In Awakenings, the names of the people involved are changed and the method of treatment for a disease is different, whereas, in the film, it states the specific disease
- The film is based on the book of the same name written by Oliver sacks, who documented the awakenings of comatose patients in 1973 through the benefits of a drug called L -Dopa. After years in a catatonic state, patients such as Leonard Lowe were awakened and they had to adjust to being alive and in a new time.
- Oliver Sacks name has been changed in the film to Malcolm Sayer and his nationality is American, instead of British
- Patch Adams is based on the experiences of Hunter Patch Adams as told in the book, Gesundheit: Good Health is a laughing matter. Patch checks himself into a mental institution and finding out that humour helps patients give him a purpose in life, he enrols at a medical college - only to be expelled and then later reinstated, after the college discovers his methods do actually work and they have an adverse effect
- Both films are set in the 1960s
- Another difference between the films is that Patch Adams is much more centrally driven with regards to the main character insofar as his efforts are concerned both in terms of his work and his personal life. We even see him being romantic involved. Awakenings does this too, but this happens at the end of the film. In Awakenings, it's not really about Malcolm per se, or Leonard, it's more to do with the drug and how it impacts people, both for the good and the bad. Less focus is on Malcolm's personal life and a lot more on his endeavours as a physician and a medic.
- Robin Williams's performance in Awakenings is far more restrained, introverted and serious, given that Oliver Sacks was a serious person who tended to his work as a neurologist. Though Sayer was a hardworking physician, he was a very shy person, who wasn't always comfortable around people whereas in Patch Adams as Patch Adams, he is a character who relies on humour, so, therefore, he's a lot less serious than Malcolm Sayer and who is very extroverted and likes to engage with his patients and his staff members. One could say Patch has more, yet not so much in common with Robin Williams than Malcolm Sayer does.
- In Patch Adams, the female character was actually a man and Patch's best friend in real life, only in the film it is portrayed as a 'she' and as a love interest for Patch
- The moral of the story in Awakenings is the value of life and what it means whereas, in Patch Adams, the question is more along the lines of 'what are we living for?'. Notice how the first question infers to a general sense and the second one has much more personal undertones to it
- Patch's quote in the film Patch Adams
- Malcolm's quote in Awakenings
In equal measure, I'd say that both films are about inspiration, hope and thinking beyond the conventions of treating patients but they go about it in different ways. In terms of entertainment factor and being highly watchable from beginning to end, Patch Adams gets my vote, as it held my attention throughout and there weren't scenes where I switched off. The story, though as simplistic as it is compared to Awakenings, was as engrossing, and yet the way it is shot, presented was easier for me to follow in Patch Adams.
However, in terms of the overall performance, Robin Williams did it better as Malcolm Sayer, because he didn't have to rely on humour or schtick; he had to play it straight in this drama, though as it was based on Oliver Sacks, Sacks was a serious person in real life. His performance in Awakenings showed that Robin is a great dramatic actor and of whom has the necessary screen presence to carry it off.
When it comes to the facts, Patch Adams does skew some of them and does not present everything as it is; likewise, the female love interest in the film is based on Patch Adams actual friend, who was a man. Which is a bit messed up.
Patch Adams is argued to be a lot more saccharine and that it relies too much on cliches and though the film gets bashed around a lot, as far as I see it, I enjoyed it a great deal.
But based on the performances given, the sheer conviction of that performance and that the drama was played out far better, my vote goes out to Awakenings and to Robin Williams as Malcolm.