Sunday, September 28, 2014


Movie Name: Philadelphia
Year of Release: 1993
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Joanne Woodward, Anna Deavere Smith, Ron Vawter, Bradley Whitford, Ann Dowd, John Bedford Lloyd, Charles Napier, Daniel von Bargen, Tracey Walter
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Following the critical and commercial success of the wonderful "The Silence of the Lambs", director Jonathan Demme tackled an original screenplay from Ron Nyswaner, one that focused on the emergence of the Aids virus. This was the first film to focus on that subject matter, with the backing of a big studio, in this case, Columbia Pictures (Norman Rene's "Longtime Companion" for instance also tackled the same subject matter, but it was a more independently financed film).
The film follows the story of corporate attorney Andrew Beckett, a successful young man, who suddenly sees himself laid off from his job with a very well regarded law firm. Andrew tries to find a lawyer to represent him, since he feels he was sabotaged by his former employers, who wanted him out of the office, once they realized he had Aids. Andrew manages to get Joe Miller to represent him - Joe is initially repulsed by the idea (particularly since he's homophobic and doesn't know much about the virus and how it is transmitted), but he comes to realize who Andrew truly is.
Jonathan Demme has been known to tackle very different types of stories throughout his eclectic directing career. One thing that remains constant throughout his films is the deep humanity that he allows his characters to have. His films always feel very authentic and genuine, where actors are fully able to flush out the characters they embody. Sometimes the tissue and the weaving of the story itself, isn't the most interesting, but the characters always seem alive and authentic. "Philadelphia" is no exception: Demme successfully makes a film that goes beyond propaganda - the film shows the reality of a mortal ailment that doesn't affect just a stereotype that people may have created in their minds. Andrew Beckett is a man that has a family life, who has a partner and whose life transcends the perceptions of what people may have of what gay life is about. The actors are uniformly good, in particular Tom Hanks, Jason Robards and Mary Steenburgen, all of whom bring their characters to life in a vivid and memorable way. The cinematography from Tak Fujimoto is beautiful as is the score from Howard Shore. A solid film worth watching.