Directed by : Jonathan Demme
Produced by : Edward Saxon, Jonathan Demme
Starring : Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell
Tom Hanks working as a gay lawyer with a conservative old Philadelphian law firm is fired ostensibly because of incompetence but in reality because he has contracted AIDS. Due to a reluctance on the part of more reputable lawyers to take on such an established firm, when he decides to sue for wrongful dismissal he has to engage a homophobic ambulance chaser (Denzel Washington). This was mainstream Hollywood’s first attempt to deal with the newly emerging AIDS epidemic and though it may seem a bit dated today it is too well made a film to be overlooked. This is because the core issue the movie deals with is not AIDS as such but prejudice in general. Credit for this must go to the two central performances in the movie.
Tom Hanks as Beckett plays his role as a man dying of aids but not ruled by it, his character is a fully evolved one leading his own life flaws and all and is roundly portrayed but not over-dramatised which would have been the easy option. Hanks deservedly won the Oscar for this unforgettable and important portrayal. Denzil Washington’s character is the real ‘hero’ of the piece as his everyman is deeply flawed in his judgements and it is his growth that is the core of the film rather than Hanks sad demise.
While the film has elements of corn, the Banderas character as the cheated on lover; Jason Robards as the conservative head of the law firm; Hank’s all too nice family and the scene that records Washington’s realization of his prejudice on the whole it is ably directed by Demme and one can forgive him these lapses as a means to get his message out to a broader audience.
Though much of the exposition and sermoning of the story takes place in the courtroom scenes and these are for the most part well handled, it is in the scenes set elsewhere where the dramatic heart of the story exist. The film succeeds because of its subtlety in not beating us over the head with its message but couches it in a well dramatised humanist drama and is all the more powerful and relevant for that. Share your Experience about the Movie in Comments.
MoviesCrunch Rating – 7/10