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IFFBoston 2009 - Closing Night & The World’s Greatest Dad

Bobcat Goldthwait is funny.

As with any entertainer, people may differ on their assessment of his comedic persona. In person, however - whether one-on-one or in front of a Q&A crowd - he has this natural, relaxed comedic pattern to his speech that can make even what should be a sad, dark story draw random chuckles and occasional outright laughter. This is a laughter born not from watching a clown perform, but from an appreciation for an experience shared with another human being.

In that same sense, Goldthwait’s Closing Night film, The World’s Greatest Dad, is funny.

Many who would hear of a Bobcat-directed film with a Robin Williams lead and assume a mad-cap zany romp. If instead, it starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman, they’d have a different expectation. As it turns out, this film was originally written (by Goldthwait) with Hoffman in mind, but Williams convinced Goldthwait to offer it to him instead.

It is no longer the 1980’s and this is not a film by a manic, yowling Bobcat or a performance by a Jonathan-Winters-on-crack Robin Williams.

Instead, this is a more introspective film ostensibly centered on a kind, loving man, Lance (Williams), who has done his earnest best in life, but for whom things have not quite worked out. He is at heart an author, but remains unpublished. He makes a living as the teacher of a lackluster poetry class (remember, this was written thinking of Hoffman, so the Dead Poet’s Society analogy is coincidental) in the high school where his unkind-to-indifferent son goes. He is a single parent trying to find love, or at least companionship, again. When tragedy strikes, Lance’s well-intentioned attempt to be a good father and make the best of a bad situation inadvertently gives him the opportunity to break out of his sad sack life – if he’s willing to compromise his ethics.

Emblematic of the closing of another festival, during first the film and then the following Q&A, there are laughs tinged with a little sadness, but – like IFFBoston 2009 – a good time was had by all.

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