Philadelphia (1993)

Philadelphia (1993)
  • Time: 125 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell


Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer infected with AIDS, is fired from his law firm in fear that they might contract AIDS from him. After Andrew is fired, in a last attempt for peace, he sues his former law firm with the help of a homophobic lawyer, Joe Miller. During the court battle, Miller sees that Beckett is no different than anyone else on the gritty streets of the city of brotherly love, sheds his homophobia and helps Beckett with his case before AIDS overcomes him.

One comment

  • Tom Hanks pulls out all the stops in this performance as a man, Andrew Beckett, dying of AIDS in the 1980s. If the courtroom battle about his rights to keep working is the driving plot, the real drama and tragedy is in the decay and death of this talented, likable man. Coming to his legal aid is Denzel Washington, who could charm the slippers off of Dorothy, and he does his best to win over the jury. But more important than his lawyering is his openly anti-gay feelings, which he has to face in himself as he gets fully absorbed in the trial.

    Director Jonathan Demme is a quirky director coming out of the independent film atmosphere of Roger Corman in the early 1970s, but this is a conventional movie in every way. Even his Silence of the Lambs two years earlier had a filming style and some plot elements that pushed the medium a little. So it’s safe to say that there is no distraction in Philadelphia from the one thing that matters, the struggle of Beckett to survive, with dignity. In fact, it depends on its utterly ordinary feel to succeed among a wide audience.

    Like Brokeback Mountain (an Ang Lee film), Philadelphia is a breakthrough for the ordinary person. The themes in both films (being a gay cowboy, or dying of AIDS) were things not easily talked about or understood by many people, and many of these people went to the movie and had to come face to face with it. By not making Philadelphia sensational in any way (gay sex, for example, is only mentioned in passing), it became completely mainstream. And the two leads and the director are not homosexual, so it isn’t a “gay” movie. For that large audience, at that time, the film was really important and probably a deep experience.

    But for many others who have already absorbed the facts and meaning of the content of the film, the man dying and the trial, the movie is more ordinary, with some common plot advances and side events. Time has made these facts a proved history, and they lack controversy. On its own, Philadelphia is a well made but formulaic movie. But Tom Hanks? His performance really is extraordinary, and that will stand the test of time.

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