"No one would take on his case... until one man was willing to take on the system."When a man with AIDS is fired by a conservative law firm because of his condition, he hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.
Moving and Powerful! Demme shines!
Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia" throws us into a world of pain and
stark truth that is few and far between in mainstream cinema. The sheer
idea that a film would so blatantly take on the difficulty of AIDS and
homosexuality, helmed by the director of "Silence of the Lambs", the
actor in "Big" and the guy who played Malcom X, is staggering.
AIDS is a reality and homophobia is a nasty truth that permeates our
"United" States of America, as well as the rest of the world. At the
time that this film was released (about 1993), the U.S. found solace in
the idea that AIDS and homosexuality were dirty brothers in a distant
family. By placing the film in the "City of Brotherly Love", hiring
Bruce Springsteen to sing the title song and having an up-and-coming
Tom Hanks star, director Jonathan Demme wisely readied an ignorant
America for our first, uninhibited glance into the face of AIDS.
Tom Hanks embodied his role in an Oscar-worthy performance, allowing us
to watch as his lovely and lively Andrew Beckett deteriorate before our
eyes. Tom Hanks and the writers took to task the difficult and
annoyingly controversial hurdle of playing the "gay" character and
placing the "straight" audience into that different world. Stereotypes
are mostly shied away from in the script with a few "fem" gays and drag
queens. These scenes are few, but are also a reality. Many a Christmas
party have I attended with the same crowd ("fems" and drag queens) in
the mix. The other, mildly annoying, factor in this film is that the
writers inform us that squeaky-clean gay Andrew Beckett contracts AIDS
at a porn theater from an anonymous stranger, while in a committed
relationship. This annoyed me because I wanted a righteous victim, not
a impure victim. Yet as time has gone by and I have had the opportunity
to work with many a victim of AIDS, whether be it male or female, gay
or straight, I have seen that this too is an unfortunate reality. No
one is perfect (gay or straight, male or female) and mistakes are often
made. Costly mistakes are often made. This was a painful truth, but it
is a truth nonetheless. In this, Tom Hanks as Mr. Beckett, brilliantly
gave AIDS an honest face for a distant America.
Denzel Washington, on the other hand, allowed America to have a
relatable character, one whose shoes we've fit in before. Denzel's
views of homosexuality were (and still are) commonplace in the American
psyche and his reactions to AIDS were understandable to the average
audience. Yet all in all this dramatic film brought a message home.
Demme's directing style is nothing amazing; he tastefully weaves a tale
without flashy shots or fancy cuts. At times the film borders on
preachy, but, as always, it is Demme's story that grasps the audience,
his mood that sets us into the tale, his actors and his direction of
them that gives the film honesty. This film is highly recommended if
not for the great acting but for lovers of a great story.