Monday, June 4, 2012

HOT: Philadelphia

OK, let me have it. As a Tom Hanks fan, in fact him being my favorite actor, it is a shame that I had never seen the film that earned Hanks his first career best actor Oscar. I have meant to watch it forever, but never got around to it. So, when I came up with this Hanks-O-Thon I knew I would finally have my chance.

Not that I didn't know what Philadelphia was about, but I am so glad that I finally watched it. It was a masterpiece. Hanks stars as Andrew Beckett, a hot shot lawyer who is on the way up at his law firm. In fact, he was just promoted and given the companies new client, which is very important to the firm.

What the company doesn't know, however, is that Beckett is keeping the fact that he is a homosexual from them - and not only that, but he has acquired AIDS. During the meeting, one of the partners notices a bruise on Beckett's head - he plays it off like he got hit with a racquetball, but it is actually a lesion caused by his disease.

After finishing his project for the new client, Beckett heads home and has an attack - he is sent to the hospital for treatment and his partner, Miguel (Antonio Banderas) meets him there. While at the hospital someone at the firm has misplaced the project he had finished - and it somehow was also deleted from his computer. Despite someone finally being able to find the work he did - the partners called him into his office and fired him.

Beckett believes that he was actually fired because the partners had found out that he had AIDS and was a homosexual. He decides to sue the company for firing him due to a handicap - which is what he finds out that the AIDS virus is considered. He searches high and low for an attorney to help him with the case, even talking to Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), who is an ambulance chasing lawyer that makes television commercials. And, at first, even he turns him down.

As we find out, AIDS is still pretty new and most of society is unaware of how the disease is spread. Beckett shakes Miller's hand and touches his desk - and Miller rushes to his doctor afraid he may have caught the disease. Plus, Miller is a homophobe - flat out saying he hates gay people.

After stumbling across Beckett in the library, Miller approaches him and eventually becomes interested in his case - and decides to help him out and become his lawyer.

The rest of the film is the court room battle. Miller trying to get the 12-person jury to believe that Beckett was fired due to his lifestyle choice and contracting the AIDS virus. While the company's lawyer, Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen), argues that the company had no knowledge of Beckett's disease when they fired him.

Just a remarkably well-acted film up and down. Hanks was amazing and his body must have went through torture during the filming. As much credit as Hanks got for his role, Washington deserves equal praise for a man who fights for his client despite being both frightened of the disease and holding such hatred for homosexuals. And, though his role is not large, Banderas was also very good as Beckett's partner.

I usually don't comment on the camera work of a film, but the work done here was masterful. The close ups of faces and handshakes and just small things that are usually so insignificant, but because of the story of a man with AIDS is being told it is blown up, were amazing. Usually tight shots like that would frustrate me - but because of the story being told it was done very well.

I am very ashamed of myself for taking nearly 20 years to finally watch this film. But, I can definitely say it will not be another 20 before I watch it again. I am not sure where it ranks in the pantheon of Hanks films for me yet - but I will know more at the conclusion of this list. It is definitely pretty high up there though.


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