24 user 3 critic

Seize the Day (1986)

Unrated | | Drama | 1 May 1987 (USA)
Tommy Wilhelm is a good honest man who's fallen on hard times after losing his job, but what really gets to Tommy is seeing both his friends and family turning their backs on him one after the other. He tries to seize the day - in vain.


Fielder Cook


Saul Bellow (novel), Ronald Ribman (screenplay)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robin Williams ... Tommy Wilhelm
Richard B. Shull ... Rojax
David Bickford ... Son-in-Law
Glenne Headly ... Olive
Stephen Strimpell Stephen Strimpell ... Stockbroker
Joseph Wiseman ... Dr. Adler
Jayne Heller Jayne Heller ... Mrs. Adler
Katherine Borowitz ... Margaret
John Fiedler ... Carl
William Duell William Duell ... Joey
Jerry Stiller ... Dr. Tamkin
James Cahill James Cahill ... Phil
Louis Guss Louis Guss ... Rubin
Gillien Goll ... Receptionist
Mara Lori Mara Lori ... Little Girl


Tommy Wilhelm (Robin Williams) is a salesman. An honest, hard-working guy who has lost his job, his girlfriend, and left part of his sanity behind as he heads to New York to pick up the pieces of his life. He's always been able to sell, but caught in a downward spiral, he must, in addition, face the father who never really understood him, while trying to balance his newly precarious existence Written by monterey media/Learning in Focus, Inc.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Losers aren't born, they're made.




Unrated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 May 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ambiciones peligrosas See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Learning in Focus See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Coincidentally, lead Robin Williams went on to star in Dead Poets Society (1989) in which, as a teacher, he extolled the proverb - "carpe diem" - Latin for "seize the day." See more »


As Tommy drives through the suburbs, cars from the 1980s can be seen parked in driveways. See more »


Dr. Adler: Oh Wilkie, have you taken my advice?
Tommy Wilhelm: From what, dad?
Dr. Adler: Take a swim, get a massage!
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the end credits have rolled, this can be seen: ...for Joe, who taught so many to seize each day. See more »

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User Reviews

Good, very relevant but flawed
28 April 2011 | by Rodrigo_AmaroSee all my reviews

Before leading his students to noble pursuits and seize the day in "Dead Poets Society" Robin Williams appeared in a small film named "Seize the Day" whose inspiration is totally different from the other film; the inspiration here is deeper, sometimes invisible to the eyes of a regular viewer but a regular viewer won't be watching any of those films even if they're Williams fans.

Based on the great novel written by Saul Bellow, Seize the Day" follows Tommy Wilhelm (Williams) an failed actor, defeated salesman, out of luck, out of job, who left his wife and children and now needs to pay for their alimony; he tries to find a way for his life with a new girlfriend (Glenne Headly) who wants something concrete from this guy, more than just promises that everything will be fine. On his way of trying to get some help he'll try two options: working closely with a successful doctor (Jerry Stiller) who teaches all about stock market and how to make money in risky business or ask to his estranged and repressive father (Joseph Wiseman) for money, love and understanding which is something very hard to get with this man, since he almost rejects his son simply because he didn't followed his advice of going to medicine school and end up getting underemployed and underpaid. But with all this drama, sadness and failures Tommy still has the compassion of crying for a stranger during a funeral, or as some might say, seize the day.

The movie progresses with an story about the importance of money versus human feelings in a animalistic society that believes in the power of an object (money) instead of deeper and positive feelings like love and respect; people simply don't care about what they cannot see. They don't help each other unless money is involved. But, hey, at the end of the day we can all sit down, breathe and think about our lives and think: there's worst problems in the world so here's a chance to smile and enjoy the things to come, carpe diem! The film and the book work with that idea but they diverge in a few things.

Bellow is not much of an easy writer to read but the book is his most accessible; the film knows how to translate his story and environment despite its looks of an B movie with a extremely low budget, but what the film doesn't seem to capture its the essence of the characters, often neglected in some low acting from the cast reduced to shouting scenes, or moments when we couldn't understand what they were saying and they were too different from the way they were written in the book, something that would be appealing in the film version because they were dramatic enough and very believable while in the film sometimes they were comical and a little bit hysterical.

It is a very good film, has its good moments, presented a relevant story even today and there's some good acting from few members of the cast (Jerry Stiller surprised me big time, this is his best role ever). I guess this was a way of Robin Williams showing his dramatic skills for the first time, a film which almost no one saw except the producers from "Good Morning Vietnam" who really saw a natural talent coming from his performance in "Seize the Day" and decided to take a shot, and the rest is history. His performance went from moving and interesting to mildly bad. You can see and feel his desperation but there were times when it seemed he was going to make us laugh when we didn't needed, but I guess this was a script problem that treated some of the dramatic moments as a comedy; rare moments, nothing to ruin the film. But his last scene, in a different perspective from what Bellow made in the book, was incredible, with one of the most ambiguous crying scenes I've ever seen. That's the moment he realizes everything and we keep thinking: what's the most important value in our lives? Money? Love? Or we don't have values because we're animals that need to do everything possible to survive in a cruel world? Why is it so difficult to be understood? Don't wait for answers about all that, just seize the day and watch this film. 7/10

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