When a gay lawyer is fired because he has AIDS, he hires a
homophobic small-time lawyer for a wrongful termination suit.
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Ron Nyswaner
Starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jason Robards,
Antonio Banderas, Mary Steenburgen, Charles Napier
Oscar Wins - Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Original Song
(Streets of Philadelphia)
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup,
Best Original Song (Philadelphia)
Philadelphia is a devastating movie to anybody who doesn't have a cold, dead heart. It's a film that's since become synonymous with the term "tearjerker," and it's a term of endearment that the film rightly deserves. Philadelphia was one of the first mainstream films to deal directly with the AIDS crisis that plagued the homosexual community in the late 80's and early 90's. Jonathan Demme treats the subject matter with great delicacy, and goes to great lengths to show the humanity that gets left out of the conversation. AIDS is very real, and there was a time when we didn't know how you could get it, or how to tell who had it. The only thing the public knew was that it was prevalent in the gay community. Thus, a group already dealing with unwarranted prejudice was further ostracized.
Philadelphia follows talented lawyer Andrew Beckett, in a role that won Tom Hanks his first well-deserved Oscar. Beckett is a gay man who is fired from his law firm after the partners learn that he has AIDS. Rightfully upset, Beckett files a wrongful termination suit and struggles to find a lawyer who will take his case, or even talk to him because of his condition. Much to his surprise, homophobic ambulance chaser Joe Miller (Washington) agrees to take his case. What follows is a humanizing courtroom drama that will frustrate you to your bones, and drive you to tears. The performances are fantastic and the writing is realistic and powerful.
Philadelphia is a landmark film for the gay community. It brought the AIDS crisis out of the dark and into the public eye, but more than that, it showed people exactly what AIDS is and how it's contracted. Philadelphia made people realize that these people weren't lepers, they were human beings cursed with a terrible illness. This was my first time watching this important film, and it absolutely wrecked me. I urge anyone out there who hasn't seen it to watch it immediately.