Review by Gordon Justesen
Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas
Director: Jonathan Demme
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0, French, Spanish & Japanese Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: November 2, 2004
this courtroom, Mr. Miller, justice is blind to matters of race, creed, color,
religion, and sexual orientation."
all do respect, your honor…we don't live in this courtroom, though, do
If a film has the
ability to bring awareness to an important issue, then it has definitely
achieved something phenomenal. One of the few movies I can honestly say that had
such an effect on me was Philadelphia.
It brought to my attention something that I knew very little of, and it made me
something of a more open minded person in the process.
When I first saw
the movie, I had just entered high school, and I was aware of the AIDS disease
but never knew anyone who had it. Thus, the film was able to make me feel as if
I did know somebody with this disease, in the form of the lead character. The
movie served as something of an education of the effect of the illness to the
masses who either didn't know too much of it or were too afraid to know
anything, mixing in a servable story about wrongful discrimination.
Tom Hanks gives a
stirring portrayal of a man struggling with the AIDS virus in the role that
garnered him his first Oscar for Best Actor. Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a
highly successful attorney who works for perhaps the biggest law firm in
Philadelphia. Not too long after he is made partner of the firm by his boss and
mentor, Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards), Beckett is suddenly fired by his law
firm for alleged incompetence.
His bosses claim he
was let go for misplacing an important document for a huge client, but Beckett
knows from minute one that his condition and sexual orientation are indeed the
primal cause. With no one to turn to, Beckett consults Joe Miller (Denzel
Washington), a personal injury lawyer to help him pursue litigation. To his
surprise, Joe doesn't want the case for personal reasons, despite being
astonished that he is the ninth lawyer Beckett has tried to convince.
As it turns out,
Joe doesn't admire the homosexual community. After witnessing Beckett getting
some slight discrimination at a library, Joe confronts the ill lawyer and the
two are soon in agreement to go forth with Beckett's discrimination lawsuit.
Justice is intended to be sought out, though it's questionable whether Joe's
view point on homosexuals will change.
One of the more
endearing aspects of Philadelphia is
the portrait of Beckett's family, who is there to support him through the course
of the difficult trial. Here is a family that is presented as a strong loving
unit for the ill fated Andrew, which is something most refreshing to see in a
mainstream film. If handled otherwise, I'm willing to bet that we would've had
at least one character at odds with Andrew over his lifestyle, etc.
In addition to
having some hard-hitting courtroom scenes, the movie also has many memorable
moments away from the courtroom. Most of which involves Joe's conflicting view
on gays in the midst of those who know him (a scene where he loses after being
hit on by a gay law student in a grocery store is most memorable), and of course
the scenes with Beckett and his family. But perhaps the most memorable scene the
defines the entire film is where Beckett, an opera devotee, gives a passionate
translation of La Momma Morta, where
he expresses his welcoming of death in the midst of displaying a love for
continued life. The way Joe reacts to this is indeed the most astonishing aspect
of this scene. If any moment in this film sealed the Best Actor Oscar for Hanks,
this one was it.
represents is a harrowing expression of pure open mindedness and honesty.
Director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner put the audience right
with Andrew's ordeal, right up the inevitable and emotionally wrenching end. And
Tom Hanks' ultimately human portrayal of a professionally accountable person
seeking justice for an unnecessary action is indeed one of the most triumphant
acting accomplishments of the last decade.
If anything, Philadelphia
still manages to make quite an impact just as it did ten years ago. If a film
has the ability to open one's eyes to something like the AIDS epidemic and to
remind people homosexuals are humans, too, that is an accomplishment worth
celebrating, and this movie as achieved just that.
I remember owning a
copy of the first DVD release for Philadelphia,
which was one of the first movies to be released to the format. Watching this
new presentation, I can very much admit that this is an improvement, even though
the original disc wasn't a terrible presentation at all. The anamorphic picture
is solidly clear and largely detailed, given a shoddy moment or two. It makes an
effective display of Jonathan Demme's directing and the cinematography of
longtime Demme collaborator, Tak Fujimoto.
The Dolby 5.0 mix
makes amazingly good use of this dialogue driven drama. Dialogue is delivered
with a hundred percent clarity, and many background noises in numerous scenes
make a certain presence felt. Music is another strong point, with a score by
Howard Shore accompanying most of the film, along with many memorable tracks by
the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.
This brand new 2
disc Anniversary Edition, courtesy of Columbia Tri Star, boasts plentiful,
Disc 1 includes the
feature film and a commentary track with Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ron
Disc 2 kicks off
with two incredible documentaries. The first is "People Like Us: Making
Philadelphia", which is an hour long retrospective on the making of the
movie, the second is a personal short documentary titled "One Foot On a
Banana Peel, The Other Foot In the Grave", which chronicles a group of AIDS
patients telling their own short stories in a doctor's office. Also included is
the original making of featurette for the movie, deleted scenes, the powerful
music video for Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia", some
extra courthouse protest/interview footage, a commercial for Joe Miller's law
firm, trailers and filmographies.