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Philadelphia (1993)

December. 22,1993
| Drama

Two competing lawyers join forces to sue a prestigious law firm for AIDS discrimination. As their unlikely friendship develops their courage overcomes the prejudice and corruption of their powerful adversaries.


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betty dalton

Slowburning courtdrama about Tom Hanks sueing his boss for being fired because he has got Aids. Not suited for those who want to see a cheery Tom Hanks movie, because "Philadelphia" is serious stuff, but very enticing nonetheless, for those who like hours long of courtroom dialogues intermixed with sentimental scenes of Tom Hanks dying of Aids. Despite this seemingly depressing story it is still a feel good movie, but one with a few heartwrenching tears.Acting is really terrific. I think it is one of the best dramatic roles Tom Hanks has ever played. Because of that I have to skip some parts of the movie because I would otherwise get to emotional and teary eyed. There are some really grand dramatic scenes which give me goosebumps just thinking about them. Director Jonathan Demme really made one of his best work in his entire carreer with "Philadelphia". His other masterpiece would be the well known "Silence of the Lambs". Jonathan Demma has got the talent to make characters become real life like. And in "Philadelphia" that means that we get to share the struggle of Tom Hanks close up, as if we were his family. Very touching. You gotta understand that this movie was released in the nineties, a period in which Aids was still often wrongfully being associated with homosexuals. Lots of fear and repulsion of Aids expressed by characters in the movie doesnt make sense nowadays anymore. Everybody now knows Aids is not a disease of homosexuals solely. Everybody knows that you dont get contaminated with Aids by just shaking hands or hugging. But all these negative prejudices were still floating around in mass media back in the nineties. For that reason this movie has become a bit dated now, although it was rather groundbreaking back then, certainly for Hollywood standards. How many big box office movies about homosexuals are out there? Just a tiny few. This fight for equal rights for homosexuals which is portrayed in this movie still makes it worth watching nowadays, because discrimination is still rampant. My only real criticism of this movie is that it still remains a cliche Hollywood movie which has to be sold to the masses and therefore a lot of sugarcoated melodrama is added to the story. Although the balance between sugarcoated sentiment and real drama is balanced fairly enough to please both the feel good loving masses and those who long for more true to life drama.


Seriously, the thing that stood out for me in this film was Andrew Beckett's (Tom Hanks) great family straight out of a Norman Rockwell illustration. His parents are still together after 40 years, he was raised in a large home in a good suburb, he has numerous siblings and numerous nieces and nephews, and all are accepting of his being gay and supportive of his lawsuit when he is apparently sabotaged at work and then fired for incompetence when he believes the law firm partners actually fired him because he had AIDS and was gay.This film was made almost a quarter of a century ago, and I guess to make Beckett sympathetic in those times there had to be nothing negative in his background. Thus the great family, his great intellect and passion for the law, and the solid long term partner in Miguel. His only failing - unprotected sex once in a gay porn theatre while in a relationship with Miguel. Thus the AIDS.There really is no leading lady in this film. Instead, there are two leading men. Andrew Beckett as the plaintiff who cannot find a lawyer to take his case, and Denzel Washington as the attorney who ultimately takes his case, although he is initially scared of Andy, scared of AIDS, repulsed by the idea of gay people. Washington as attorney Joe Miller is portrayed as a devoted family man and flamboyant personal injury lawyer who thinks no plaintiff is too stupid to defend - numerous warning signs, plaintiff ignores them, plaintiff falls into manhole, for example. Yet he will not take Andy's case, initially. It's only after he sees a connection as to how he is treated at the public library for being African American and how Andy is treated there for being obviously ill of AIDS does he change his mind.Where the great acting lies is in the growing friendship between Andy and Joe as they work on the case together. It is a subtle gradual shift in Joe's outlook until at the end, he buys a bottle of Dom Perignon to give to Andy in the hospital when, due to the price, he would not buy a bottle of that same champagne to celebrate the birth of his own child at the beginning of the film.Honorable mention to Jason Robards as the chief partner of the law firm being sued who is more upset about the indignity of being hauled before the Philadelphia legal establishment as a civil defendant than he is about any possible loss of money, and to Joanne Woodward as Andy's mom who keeps a stiff upper lip in front of her son, yet the fact that he is dying in front of her is tearing her up. Sorry Mary Steenburgen, you are a great actress, but you just don't have me believing that you "hate gays", but you do have me believing you are a great attorney.Today, lots of the characterizations may leave you feeling like you were hit over the head with a sledge hammer by Captain Obvious, but remember the time frame. People still had preconceived notions about homosexuals as in they must be deviant or have had something in their past that made them "that way", and they were definitely scared of AIDS and still not sure it was that hard to contract. Stick around for the great acting by Washington and Hanks and a host of supporting players. And also stick around for the final scene. It will jerk at your heartstrings.


A great film, made exceptional by Hanks & Washington. What I find so remarkable, is that the vast majority of this film is in the courtroom. There's a major reason why Hanks character was made out to be such a "model citizen"...i.e intelligent, successful, hard working, compassionate individual, who makes positive contributions to society. That purpose was to show that bigotry is blind to all that is truly significant...the quality &/or "soul" of an individual. That is best shown & learned through Washingtons character. Once Wahingtons character got through his own hang-ups, concerning his client, he found out that Andrew Beckett was much more than a homosexual w AIDS...Beckett was a quality human-being,


The topic is quite interesting, but everything depends on how you approach...Summarize a topic as susceptible of different interpretations in terms of "good guys" and "bad guys", I think it is unwise. I'm not arguing for or against the decision of the jury, or if Andrew Beckett's company was responsible for unfair dismissal. I'm just saying that the movie is not objective from the beginning.Anyway, is quite watchable in general. I therefore remain with Jonathan Demme's direction, concretely the first 5 min. of the movie, in which makes a lovely portrait of Philadelphia.6/10