1993 - PG-13 - 151 Mins.
|Director: Jonathan Demme|
|Producer: Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon|
|Written By: Ron Nyswaner|
|Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas |
|Review by: John Ulmer
"Philadelphia" is a sometimes overbearing but nevertheless enjoyable film about a gay man (Hanks) infected with AIDS, who sues his employer (Robards) for firing him over prejudice. It was the first mainstream Hollywood production to deal with AIDS so openly, and the film, knowing this from the start, quickly becomes way too preachy about coming to accept homosexuality as a lifestyle. Other than that, the film itself is quite entertaining.
The film starts out during the early nineties, where attorney Tom Hanks has just gotten promoted by his boss Jason Robards. But when Hanks' character starts to develop the signs of AIDS, his employers fire him from their company and pretend that they did so because he didn't work hard enough. "His work was satisfactory," one of his employers says on trial later in the film.
Hanks, realizing this is all a lie (and rightly so!), goes to attorney Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), who at first turns down Hanks' case. I like the part where they meet.
Washington: "What happened to your face?"
Hanks: "I have AIDS."
Denzel's character suddenly walks away to the opposite side of the room, like most of us would upon encountering someone infected with AIDS. Later Washington visits his doctor, afraid that he might have caught the disease from shaking hands with Hanks.
After dealing with his homophobia, Joe Miller takes on the case when he sees Hanks reading a book in a public library and being asked by an employee of the library to go to a seperate room away from the public. "Wouldn't you be more comfortable in a private room?" asks the library worker. "No, would you?" Hanks replies.
The library scene is a parallel of something else. Denzel Washington is, of course, a black man, or African-American. Seeing Hanks being treated with such cruelty makes Washington's character think of his roots, and how his ancestors were treated. That's the real reason he takes on the case. Because he identifies with Hanks.
This is where the film starts to get too preachy. It just continues to be consistently preachy about homosexuality. I, for one, think homosexuality is wrong, unnatural and disgusting, and a film like this is trying to make people like me change their minds. I am not homophobic, but I think that homosexuality itself is wrong. Hollywood and others often confuse personal opinion and orientation for homophobia. Is the entire point of this film to preach to the majority of people that homosexuality is not wrong, not immoral, not unnatural? Probably.
Hanks outplays Denzel Washington and everyone else in his Oscar-winning role, but to tell you the truth I've seen him do better and I wondered if he got this Academy Award simply because of the subject matter at hand. At least he earned it, unlike some other people who have gotten Oscars over the years.
In the end, "Philadelphia" is a bit too preachy about homosexuality and our culture coming to accept it. If you look past the message, however, it is a pretty good film, the only other problem being the long stretches in between that account for the film's two and a half hour + running time.