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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Toys (1992)

I don't remember when I first watched this movie but I DO remember around the time it came out, I wrote Robin Williams a fan letter. I was a big fan of Mork & Mindy (obviously) and I was upset that my parents wouldn't let me see some of his films because they were rated R. He (or his secretary) responded and very sweetly informed me that he had films coming up that everyone could see (Aladdin!) and he was excited for me to see them. Also enclosed was an 8x10 glossy, signed, that was him in his Toys costume with a large wind up key on his back, revealed as he bent to wind up a toy in front of him. It's one of the rare physical things I'm devastated to have lost somewhere along the way.

The first words of this movie are lyrics to the song "At the Closing of the Year." They go, "If I cannot bring you comfort, then at least I bring you hope." Good lord. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about this whimsical, bittersweet film right out the gate! This movie hits a little different every time I watch it. I think I was too eager to divine meaning from it (and, by extension, me) in this viewing because I wasn't all that invested. Not as much as I normally am.

Even with that detachment, this film delivers. There's so much it has to say about expectations of self, particularly through the lens of those around us. I have been thinking about validation A LOT today and how somewhere along the line, we culturally decided that wanting validation is pathetic or needy or something. Obviously it can go too far but doesn't everyone want to hear from the people they love that they've made them proud? Watching Patrick (LL Cool J) in particular just looooonging for validation the way that his dad yearns for it from his own father like... damn. Just tell him he's enough. His camouflage skills are amazing, yes, but just tell him you love him for being him. Not hard. Why are we so withholding of the things we want the most for ourselves? ARGH! I think, too, there's some lovely exploration of self acceptance. Leslie (Robin Williams) knows he's a flake and he doesn't beat himself up about it. There's no montage of him becoming a better man - he simply rises to the occasion as the best version of himself. I wish we saw that more often in culture. Yes, aim for growth, but stop telling people they need to change. They need to evolve. Big difference.

In a week when there's been a lot of talk about World War III, it was kind of tough to listen to this 30 (!!!!!!) year old movie talk about drones without using the word "drone." Lots of jingoistic military talk that felt like a caricature then and now... too real. We haven't evolved enough. In fact, it feels like we've gone backwards a little. It made me even more fond of Robin Williams' character.

There's so little to say about Joan Cusack in this except that she's perfection and I hope she was having as much fun as it looks like she's having.

I'm a sucker for Magritte and I kind of... wonder if that comes from my love of this movie. Or just my love of absurdism in general? Either way, the aesthetics of this movie are almost exactly my aesthetics and while there's a lot in the direction I don't love (pacing, blurry action), the production design is something I want to crawl into and live inside.

(Ben found the soundtrack on CD for me a few years ago but NONE of the songs are available for streaming and it enrages me whenever I'm reminded of that fact. The Mirror Song is a total banger.)

In the vein of this movie's aesthetics, I really thought I knew what I was going to do for this movie when I started the project. Whenever I watch this movie I think "I want to dress like Robin Wright's character every day of my life but I'm not brave enough" and I thought "I WILL MAKE MY OWN VERSION OF HER COSTUME AND I WILL WEAR IT." In order to have maximum time on it, I went shopping for fabric this morning. And you know what? I've been so much more confident lately and dressing like I've always wanted to lately. I don't need to make it a project. I'm already doing it. (That being said, once I find the magenta plaid of my dreams, I will absolutely be making myself an 18th C military style jacket and I might even learn to bike again so I can ride around town in it.)

Acrylic on canvas


-Oof. All I really want to do right now is list everything that's wrong with it. But that's not actually helpful. (That effing uneven couch though...) I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of weeks being hard. I'm tired of feeling like I'm not enough.

-Ultimately, this turned out really well. I didn't realize, when I started, just how difficult doing the couch camouflage would be. I was glad to take Wednesday night away from it (D&D night!) so I could come back with more energy. It took many many hours. I would have been happy to put many more in. But I surprised myself. I pulled it off.

-This piece provided an important reminder that it helps to step away from a thing, even for a minute, so you can better see how you're doing with it.

-Why are there no pictures of "Alien Al" easily available online??

-I hope I did Magritte proud.

Next week, perfectly whimsical and slightly snarky Disney film, "Enchanted."

I hope you hold up the tradition of whimsy in your life this week. I hope that despite the world's endless efforts to harden you, you stay soft and hopeful. I hope you laugh with someone you love.

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