Tom Hanks Project – “Philadelphia” Review

17 Apr


Let me explain this to you like you’re a six year-old*. Philadelphia is a tough watch. You’re going to feel all the feels watching Tom slowly die from AIDS. You’re probably going to cry**. You’re probably going to shake your head at the homophobia. Especially coming from Denzel. You may get a bit of a happy ending, but not really. Emotional weight aside, this is a damn good movie and Tom rightfully earns his first Oscar for it. We’d been dreading this viewing for quite some time***, but a great sad movie doesn’t make me as sad as a terrible funny movie. I felt better after this than I did after “Volunteers.” 

*UNGH! Brilliant film reference opener. I just have to call this out because UNGH!!

**Check your pulse. Is it there? OK, you’re going to cry.

***Hence the late posting here. We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch this over the weekend.


denzelwashington_8Hanks plays Andy Beckett, a young hot shot attorney at a powerful Philadelphia law firm. We first meet him as he’s besting Denzel Washington’s Joe Miller in court. Flash forward a bit* and Beckett is given the most high profile case in his firm and is starting to show physical signs of suffering from AIDS. Next thing we know he’s framed so it looks like he’s lost key information and is promptly fired. From there, the story unfolds into a court case where he’s suing for wrongful termination, while progressively getting sicker and sicker. The movie is full of powerful performances. There’s a beautiful love story between Hanks and Antonio Banderas. Denzel plays a difficult role expertly, showing some growth while slowly overcoming his homophobia and the filmmakers had a number of actors who actually had AIDS in the film which made the film feel even more powerful. As difficult as it can be to watch, it’s a wonderfully made film that’s still important 20 years later.

*This is one of the movie’s favorite tropes: flash-forwards. Every other cut-away, we see at the bottom-right of the screen, “1 month later.” “5 months later.” “2 weeks later.” I wonder if this is one of the things that prevented the movie from being nominated as best feature film?


Laugh Out Loud: Zack: 9 Caitlin: 10 “I wonder if we’ll even laugh at all,” Caitlin said as it started. It’s obviously not a knee slapper, but we had a few laughs here and there. I remember laughing a couple times when Andy takes us on a tour of his childhood home on his parent’s anniversary. I don’t really recall when I laughed while watching the film — I’m fairly sure that Denzel was the one given just a couple of zingers. But overall, this is not meant to be a comedy.

Comedy: Zack: N/A  Caitlin: N/A  Again, not very funny, but it’s not trying to be. The few moments that are supposed to be funny are. I almost want to rank this N/A. It’s a movie about a guy dying of AIDS … what do you expect? I went ahead and ranked this N/A because I just don’t think it was trying to be funny. There were lighthearted moments, for sure, but it’s a drama about a serious, sad issue and the prejudices people can have.

Cry: Caitlin: 2 Zack: 0 I sure felt bad for Andy, but it didn’t quite move me to tears. If anything, I felt I had to be strong for Caitlin. This was the hardest I’ve seen her cry at maybe any movie. She gets a very strong two here. It was basically just five minutes of a deep cry. I’ve cried harder (lookin’ at you, Rudy,) but this was definitely up there. You just fall for Andrew Beckett and his family and his boyfriend and even Denzel a little bit, and you want them to all enjoy this success together. It’s a very emotional film, and is acted superbly so that you really get drawn in.

Eye Cover: Caitlin: 5 I remember two from when Andy was throwing up, but can’t quite place the others. I think it was when he was getting sicker, but I’m not sure. I know for sure there was eye coverage when Andy threw up, and I believe that was it — I just kind of kept starting to look again and then re-covered. I’m not a fan of watching people throw up.

philadelphia-1993-08-gRomantic Interest: Caitlin: 9.6 Zack: 9.5 Hanks and Banderas are so sweet together. The way Banderas kisses every one of Hanks’ fingers. The way they seem so at ease with each other. They mention how they specifically don’t show a big kiss or anything for viewers to get in an uproar about. (It was 1993, remember.) Still, the tenderness between them was 100% convincing and adorable. The clincher for me in the believability of this relationship is actually not from the sweet moments. It all hits so hard when they’re in the court room and Andy is being forced to talk about the transgression he had that caused him to contract AIDS — we find out he cheated on his partner back in 1984. The family looks at Miguel (Banderas’ character) sadly, patting him on the back to help him through remembering this inevitably heartbreaking moment in their relationship. Apart from this being what caused Andy to contract AIDS, which in itself is heart-wrenching, to know it happened in a moment of poor judgment when he was cheating on Miguel … just, oof. I put myself in Miguel’s shoes and just hurt for the both of them. 

Hanks: Zack: 9.7 Caitlin: 9.7 Incredible job here. Hanks really earned his first Oscar. He’s his normal charming self early on and maintains his sense of self and humanity as he suffers through AIDS. It’s a brave role and he pulls every bit of it off. I only go below a 10 because there are several roles I enjoy more than this one, even if it is nearly perfect. Definitely a delicate, excellent portrayal of his character in this film. He doesn’t go over-the-top with stereotypes, but is simply a relatable, likable-yet-flawed character who you just want to not hurt anymore.

Movie: Zack: 9.0 Caitlin: 9.0 Extremely well acted, but not the best story. It’s very solid and holds your interest with the court case and growth of the characters, but it’s not a very enjoyable watch and is a bit slow at times. It didn’t even get nominated for best picture that year. It’s a very good movie, but not quite great. Still, it’s a must see and clearly one of Hanks’ most powerful roles. Because this was 1993 and a very different kind of portrayal of gay men than had ever really been documented in a feature film before, I do think Demme and his crew go out of their way to make everyone seem as “normal” as possible, which I do think makes the film feel a bit flat at times. The fact that Beckett’s whole family is not only on board with him being gay, but so 100% supportive of him and Miguel and everything — it’s lovely, and I’m sure there are families like this, but it’s hard to believe that in 1993 every single person in the family would just be cool with this. Still, overall it’s a well-handled film written by a gay man with tons of gay actors, which was a progressive step for Hollywood. I’m only sad that it’s taken over a decade now for Hollywood to even begin working towards inclusivity. We’ve still got a long way to go.


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