The best (and worst) movies of the 1990s

Perhaps the biggest cultural change of the 1990s was that movies became more hopeful, even if the actors playing the leads were convinced they were destined for failure. This is the initial arc for Bill Murray’s character Daniel Hillard, based on the Bette Midler play of the same name. Hillard is a man in his 50s with a broken heart, a gifted horticulturist in LA, and one red wig in every color. His problems start when his teen daughter Mara (Kate Mara) finds out he has been the cause of her mother Lisa’s (Julie Delpy) death and the two of them put on a play to put on her will. As the show gathers steam, Hillard has more than one opportunity to retreat back into the throes of his own unhappy life, but instead he decides to live out his life with intent. He decides to make the world a better place, all while breathing new life into things and people he has hurt or abandoned.

That is the essence of Mrs. Doubtfire, and Murray is so emotionally and comedically invested in his role that you want him to be a success every step of the way. The movie starts off with most of the ground covered, but over the course of the two hours of big laughs and small tears, you get an in-depth appreciation for Murray as an actor. He invests himself so completely into Hillard that it’s sometimes difficult to feel a world apart. The precise budget for this project was just under $25 million, but there are moments where you are watching Murray do something for the sheer joy of it. That’s why it is so hard to tear him apart when he comes back for another round of tears. There are plenty of tender moments with Murray and Mara, but the bulk of the screen time is taken up by Murray and Delpy as they get in to it with each other. Delpy’s character, who is madly in love with her ex-husband (Murray) and father of their three kids, shares a theme with most of the LGBT characters portrayed in the movie: her complexity and complexity’s flaw. She’s never actually been in a long-term relationship. During the original production she was married to her friend William Thacker (Chris Pine), but they got divorced and she never took him back. She was never in a long-term relationship, and it was the romance that found her. The ex-husband was consumed by his new relationship, and when Mara tells Delpy of the new man in her life she is miserable. Delpy’s remarkable screen performance gives the movie its soul, but actually has very little to do with her character, aside from the fact that she did get out of a bad situation. Her character would not exist without Murray’s, the “other” husband (as the couple used to call him) of Mara’s character.

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