I have always avoided this film, I don’t know why; I think part is that I have a love hate relationship with Tom Hanks. Sometimes I think that he is brilliant, others dire. Also as I actually just thought that the film would be dull and miserable. It is neither; well it’s very moving but not miserable, the acting is fantastic.
Tom Hanks is brilliant as Andrew Beckett a hardworking and promising lawyer who contracts AIDS and suddenly is fired over a ‘misplaced’ document, though the underlying reason is his health and sexuality, so he decides to fight. There is a rawness and mixture of despair and anger that I don’t think I have seen before even in his best performances. (He also looks quite good as a rugged skinhead early on, wrong but true.) I think when he gets denied by the final lawyer to be represented the silent face shot of him is heartbreaking.
The lawyer who turns him down and who used to work opposite on cases against Joe Miller is played by Denzel Washington, another actor that I have never been really keen on, again hit and miss. Another superb piece of acting, a homophobic and AIDS fearing lawyer defending the very person who sums up the things he dislikes. He does this incredibly convincingly and again it’s the scenes with no words that he excels at in this film.
Antonio Banderas though not in it very much was great as the concerned and despairing lover of Andrew. He kept reminding me of Mr S, must be the accent sort of. Mary Steenburgen is also excellent as the shrewd lethal opposing council when she interogates Beckett it is a heart stopping and heart breaking moment, and the Board of Lawyers who fire Beckett are superbly vile, a fantastic cast.
I have to say I was unsure on the opera scene at first but it moved me to tears, I was a pure cynic at the start thinking they were literally going for the violins.
Naturally having fallen in love with the City of Brotherly love for me Philadelphia was also a star of the show. In fact the opening credits which pan across the whole of its skyline and streets brought a small lump to my throat for different reasons than the rest of the film, which ‘moved me’ (I don’t want people thinking I am a big cry baby now do I?) greatly several times.
If you haven’t seen this film you must see it, if you have seen it you should watch it again.