Philadelphia has been on my watchlist for quite a while, so I was glad that I was able to finally watch it yesterday night. Directed Jonathan Demme, director of The Silence of the Lambs, this movie is a classic court case drama dealing discrimination at the workplace. Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is a homosexual who works for a top law firm in Philadelphia. After contracting HIV aids, he decides to conceal his disease from his employers fearing that it would compromise his career. When one of his associates finds out about his disease, Andrew is fired from his position. He later resolves to suing his employers for discrimination by teaming up with Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), another prominent lawyer in the city.
I appreciated this film on paper. It has an excellent cast, a reputable director and is a court case drama, which I am a sucker for. In addition, this movie is ahead of its time because it openly incorporates the notion of homosexuality within its script. Andrew Beckett is a homosexual and has a functioning relationship with his partner, who is played by Antonio Banderas. Showing a homosexual relationship on screen in the 90s was risky, given our society’s dispute about this idea. So I have to give props for how progressive this movie was for its time. The performances in this movie are also great for the most part. Tom Hanks dropped a ton of weight (over 30 pounds) to play someone who was suffering from HIV aids. His physical transformation is certainly noticeable and sickening (in an admirable way). Denzel Washington is also great. His character is extremely witty and has a personal distaste for homosexuals. This is a great character arc because it gave me curiosity as to how he was going to handle this case. Was he going to let his personal opinions jeopardize his professional conduct?
But that’s about all of the praise I can give this movie. I was not particularly impressed by the recurring use of “time jumps” (aka skipping ahead in time by showing us how much time has passed on screen) as I never got the sensation of time passing because all the actors looked almost exactly the same. I also wasn’t totally impressed with Tom Hanks’ performance. I hold him to high standards because of films such as Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump. But here his performance didn’t convince me that he was either a homosexual or an HIV aids patient. His face was shrouded with makeup. There was nothing in his performance that made me believe he was either of these two things.
Another complaint of mine is that this movie drags in many of these scenes. For example in the 2nd act, there is an elaborate 20 minute sequence involving Hanks and Washington in an apartment, where Denzel Washington’s character stares at Tom Hanks dancing to opera music with it blaring in the background. I saw absolutely no point to this scene and many others in the film. I also have concern for the fact that the homosexual relationship between Hanks and Banderas was never really fleshed out, especially since the film revolved around Hanks’ homosexuality as a key plot point.
Overall, I was let down by my high expectations. On paper, it is a thrilling court case drama, with an excellent cast and director that discusses discrimination at the workplace. All the performances were also good for the most part. Where this movie let me down is its frequent use of time jumps, its slow 2nd act and the fact that the film never fleshes out the homosexual relationship between Hanks and Banderas as it was set up as a key aspect of the movie.