Like the great comedian himself who’d drop nuclear levels of energy onstage only to crash into seas of stifling, deep depression a few minutes later, “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind” sprints straight out of the gate with thoughtfulness, insight and nuance, but fails to keep its feet trotting at sturdy pace into the doc’s later half.
That’s expected, because recent documentaries about comedians, like “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” are structured in an increasingly familiar way. The first half focuses on that comedian’s childhood where they discovered their love of acting, stand-up and the like, and then features said comedian moving to Los Angeles where they miraculously became a fixture among the endless, zany personalities inhabiting The Comedy Store. The second half then focuses on their rise in Hollywood post-stand-up, maybe one significant TV show here and a slew of other appreciated roles there, as well as a dive into their hobbies and personal relationships. The first half of these docs always makes us feel as active participants in the subject’s life, but the latter half is akin to watching a family slideshow at some event we weren’t actually invited to.
That’s strangely appropriate for “Come Inside My Mind,” considering a constant theme of the documentary are interviewees admitting or showing regret for not having enough time to spend with Williams. Sometimes Williams was too busy on the road, other times he might have been emotionally unavailable. But we get a keen sense that even though the “Mork and Mindy” star was someone these interviewees loved immensely, it often felt like he was off on his own planet.
“Come Inside My Mind” is still a worthwhile doc, both for entertainment and insight, as we’re left constantly transfixed by Williams and his personal endeavors. Even when the movie lags in the second half, we find ourselves ruminating about that question that “Inside the Actor’s Studio” host James Lipton asked Williams in some opening footage from the beginning of the film: just what is it like inside his mind? The answer is never quite revealed even as Williams’ experiences of reuniting with his brothers, quitting drugs, getting married, having kids and losing friends are depicted on-screen. But we leave Marina Zenovich’s doc with a strong sense that being Williams was exhilarating, terrifying, intimate, isolated, but always, unquestionably captivating.