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Philadelphia

Posted by martinteller on December 23, 2013

Falling behind on my movie reviews, so the next couple are going to be quickies.  My lady picked this out for some Saturday viewing.  I was really surprised by how good it was.  I guess I expected something more manipulative and formulaic, but I suppose I should have had more faith in Demme.  While it does get occasionally sentimental, it’s not done in outrageously manipulative fashion.  Hanks is excellent in it (far better than his previous Oscar win in Forrest Gump) and I’m getting to the point where I don’t think Denzel is capable of turning in a bad performance (although his accent in The Mighty Quinn left something to be desired).  Maybe the most impressive thing to me was how the film sidestepped many of the courtroom drama conventions.  The 11th hour evidence/witness/revelation is such a staple of the genre that I’ve come to take it as a given… it was quite a relief to see no such shenanigans going on here.  And the ending is truly touching, lovely and sweet without mawkish tones.  The movie provides a consistently compelling storyline, and has some artful flourishes.

If the film’s subject matter is “dated”, it’s only because we’ve come a remarkably long way in terms of both gay acceptance and AIDS treatment.  It was absolutely relevant in its day, and ahead of its time in how it treats homosexual characters and tries to defuse AIDS hysteria.  While neither AIDS nor homophobia has been “solved”, it’s easy to forget that only 20 years ago these were much more pronounced problems in our society, and the attitudes reflected in these bigoted characters were much more common and accepted.

As a sidenote, I counted three connections to my favorite Demme film, Stop Making Sense.  At one point, Washington uses the phrase “Making flippy-flop” which brought to mind the Talking Heads song “Making Flippy Floppy”.  The song “Heaven” is sung at Andy’s party.  And Talking Heads percussionist Steve Scales appears as one of the jurors.  And another sidenote: in 1990, the comic strip “Doonesbury” featured a character who contracted — and died of — AIDS.  His name was also Andy.  Rating: Very Good (87)

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