Philadelphia (1993)

philadelphia poster 1993 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Story ambiguity, solid cast and acting

Dated but also a period piece in that sense

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Philadelphia

Studio:  Clinica Estetico

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 22, 1993

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

philadelphia aids lesions tom hanks

Yeah….they didn’t give it to me for Big…I’m pushing hard for the Oscar now!

Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is coming up in the exclusive law firm where he works.  When an important client’s case is nearly botched, Andrew is blamed and fired…but Andrew claims that he was targeted by Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards) and the other partners of the firm because he has AIDS.  With a TV lawyer named Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) reluctantly taking his case, Andrew is facing the second biggest fight of his life as the disease continues to cripple and eat him away.

Directed by Jonathan Demme, Philadelphia is a courtroom drama.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Song (“Streets of Philadelphia”—Bruce Springsteen) with nominations for Best Makeup, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Song (“Philadelphia”—Neil Young).

Philadelphia was one of those question mark movies when it was released.  We had preview tickets for the film and the big question was could comedian Tom Hanks pull off a big dramatic role.  The answer was yes (for better or worse), and the film dare to do some things that hadn’t really been discussed.

philadelphia court denzel washington charles napier

What is this case really about?

Very few mainstream movies had tackled homosexuality and AIDS when the movie was made.  The movie was pretty frank and “un-PC” in its presentation, but it was also honest.  Washington’s character states that “we don’t live in this courtroom” when discussing how the court would handle the subject, and if the movie had everyone accepting Beckett’s life and decisions (especially in 1993), it would not have been genuine.  By tackling things head on, prejudice and all, the movie didn’t feel completely issue driven but story driven.

Tom Hanks worked in the movie.  In my opinion it was kind of his downfall for me as a fan.  He excelled at the role and stopped taking the “funny” roles which had made him popular (Robin Williams bounced back and forth more between his roles)…he’s now one of those groanworthy actors that feels like he’s striving for Oscar in a lot of his roles.

philadelphia court lesions tom hanks

The horror of AIDS

As mentioned however, Hank’s really good here and his relationship with Washington is maybe the best part of the movie in that Washington’s character grows and learns by working with him.  Antonio Banderas, Bradley Whitford, Ann Dowd, Joanne Woodward, Anna Deavere Smith, and Mary Steenburgen help make up the supporting cast while Jason Robards, Robert Ridgely, and Ron Vawter help make almost the stereotypical fat cat lawyers.  There is also a Demme customary cameo by Roger Corman and an early appearance by Grey’s Anatomy’s Chandra Wilson.

Philadelphia manages to be engaging and telling of the time period.  It is interesting to watch to see how much things have changed since its release (and some things which haven’t changed).  What is nice about Philadelphia is the ambiguity of it.  While the partners of the firm are sexist, homophobic, and maybe racist, the script leaves some room open to if maybe this wasn’t a set-up.  Who knew what when becomes a big key in this court case and the movie doesn’t necessarily answer those questions…which keeps the movie watchable even now.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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