Seize the Day (film)

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Seize the Day
Seize the Day (film).jpg
Directed by Fielder Cook
Written by Ronald Ribman
Starring Robin Williams
Jerry Stiller
Joseph Wiseman
Richard B. Shull
Glenne Headly
Stephen Strimpell
Music by Elizabeth Swados
CinematographyEric Van Haren Noman
Edited bySidney Katz
Learning In Focus
Distributed by HBO
Cannon Films
Release date
September 9, 1986 (Toronto International Film Festival)
May 1, 1987
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States

Seize the Day is a 1986 television film directed by Fielder Cook. It stars Robin Williams, Jerry Stiller and Joseph Wiseman, [1] and is based on the novel of the same name by Saul Bellow, It was broadcast on the PBS "Great Performances" series in May 1987. [2]


Plot summary

The story is set in 1956. [2] After losing his job as a traveling salesman of children's furniture, Tommy Wilhelm leaves Massachusetts for New York City. He is under financial strain because of the financial demands of his wife, from whom he is separated. He moves into the same hotel housing his physician father, Dr. Adler, with whom he has a strained relationship.

Flashbacks show Tommy's past, how he moved to Los Angeles, changed his name, and tried to become an actor, which failed. His marriage failed because he left his wife, and he is estranged from their two sons.

In New York, Tommy becomes involved with Dr. Tamkin, an acquaintance of his father who speculates in the commodities market. He agrees to open an account managed by Tamkin on a 50-50 basis, but Tamkin persuades Tommy to put up most of the money. When prices decline and Tommy wants to cash in the account, Tamkin urges Tommy to remain calm and "seize the day."

The commodities venture collapses, and he has lost his life savings and cannot even pay his hotel bill. His estranged wife is unsympathetic and his father refuses to help him or even provide emotional support. Tommy tries to find Tamkin, who has vanished. He winds up at a stranger's funeral, where he cries and is mistaken for a mourner.



Williams' casting in the role was billed as a sharp departure from his previous comic roles, such as the TV series Mork and Mindy, though he had previously appeared in dramatic roles, including The World According to Garp. Williams described it as "kind of like a Jewish Greek drama." The movie was filmed over a thirty-day period in New York City, longer than most television movies on commercial networks at the time but far shorter than the shooting schedule of a feature film. [3]

The film was blocked from theatrical release by Williams' management company. The San Francisco Examiner reported that the decision was made because the film was not like the comedies for which Williams was known. [4]


Philadelphia Inquirer critic Ken Tucker praised the performances but wrote that the film was "a little boring in its relentless depression." The director, he wrote, was "all too willing to let a scene dawdle, the better to emphasize Tommy's torture." [5]

A San Francisco Examiner critic called the film a "powerful drama" and "remarkably faithful reproduction" of the Bellow novel, and praised the performances, calling Williams "first rate." [4]

New York Times critic John J. O'Connor praised Wiseman's performance and said that Stiller "steals the film." But he criticized the casting of Robin Williams as too "Middle American" for a role as a Jewish New Yorker. He wrote that Williams' performance was excessively intense, and that the portrayal of Jewish people whose only yardstick is money is "a scenario calculated to unsettle, possibly even offend." [2]

Writing in New York magazine, critic John Leonard called the film "ugly stuff" but said that Williams "is, for the most part, up to it." [6]

See also

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  1. Seize the Day - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie
  2. 1 2 3 O'Connor, John J. (1987-05-01). "Robin Williams in 'Seize the Day'". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  3. Winfrey, Lee (1987-01-13). "Robin Williams in Bellow Novel". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 44. Retrieved 2020-03-25 via
  4. 1 2 Heaton, Michael (1987-02-27). "'Seize the Day' is powerful drama". The San Francisco Examiner. p. 58. Retrieved 2020-03-25 via
  5. Tucker, Ken (1987-05-01). "'Seize the Day' a tale of regret, desperation". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 31. Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  6. Leonard, John (1987-05-04). The Man Who Cries 'I Am'. New York Magazine.