CW: suicide, suicide ideation
Spoilers: Minimal but some
I was genuinely excited about the trailer for Aladdin. Will Smith struck me as the best possible option to be cast as Genie. I wondered if Robin Williams had still been alive whether they could have managed to cast anyone else.
Aladdin is one of those rare Disney movies that I know very, very well. I think my parents objections to American capitalist culture extended to movies and certainly, their not owning a video player until I had left for university meant that I had minimal opportunities to rewatch films unless they were on TV. My morning child minder though, had Aladdin and The Little Mermaid on video and her kids would play them over and over in the mornings before school. I know the songs. I think that those two films and Mary Poppins are the only Disney movies I can say that about.
I had the idea that I might struggle a bit with the film because of the Robin William’s connection but I was expecting to essentially go see a cutesy film with The Jellicle Cat. In the trailers I was teasing her about her not having seen The Secret Life of Pets yet. The film started, and I had a brief moment the first time Will Smith turned around.
Then the first song hit. And I mean it HIT. I started sobbing, as quiet as I could since Jellicle was one side and a small boy was the other (but I wanted to bawl). I wasn’t expecting it, I wanted to walk out, it took everything I had to stay sat in that seat and not to run away and find somewhere to curl up.
When Robin Williams killed himself I was working in France, the news came on the local radio station and I was in a lay-by trying to stop myself from wrapping my head in a plastic bag. I have to wonder if the news had been in English would it have been worse? Did the language filter give me a moment enough to pause?
I’ve watched films with him in since, Good Morning Vietnam, A Night At The Museum, Hook. If anything I would have thought Hook would have gotten to me the most.
In hindsight though, this is the first (and probably only) time I’ll get to watch a movie where he was so completely not present.
The film was good, Will Smith was amazing, and come on it could have been the 90s with that end-credits rap. But I spent the film sobbing, I spent almost every song forcing myself to stay in the cinema. After the second song I let The Jellicle know the songs were making me cry, because then I knew it wasn’t some random fluke. Jasmine’s song didn’t make me cry which I think was telling since it’s the new one. I loved the fact she had a proper plot, I loved the hand maid romance , I do not think you could have gotten that with Williams, certainly not the age he would have been.
But gods it felt so raw, like a parent had died. The feeling of “I want him back” was so powerful it almost overwhelmed the desire of “I want him back” and the desire for a plastic bag.
Perhaps it was because of the connection of Genie to Williams suicide. The awful, awful, awful “Genie you’re finally free.” memes that left me wanting to simply not be. All I know is I came out of a great light hearted movie feeling like I’d gone a couple of rounds with Jade Jones. I can’t explain the sobbing like a traumatised child at almost every song, they weren’t the recordings I heard as a kid obviously, I can’t explain longing for Williams to be in the world as if I’d actually met the man, all I know is that my heart hurts like he had only just gone, like he was family.
I can’t watch that film again and it was a really good film.