Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1993. TriStar Pictures, Clinica Estetico. Screenplay by Ron Nyswaner. Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. Produced by Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon. Music by Howard Shore. Production Design by Kristi Zea. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Craig McKay.
A big-budget Hollywood film finally tackles the issue of AIDS for the first time; brave, yes, but it’s still just another Hollywood movie where gay men only hug so that we don’t get too uncomfortable. Tom Hanks is excellent in an image-breaking role as a lawyer who is let go from his firm when it comes out that he is dying of AIDS. He refuses to take the discrimination lying down, opting instead to hire a homophobic lawyer (Denzel Washington) and take his whole firm to court, starting with its extremely old-fashioned boss (Jason Robards). Antonio Banderas stars as Hanks’ boyfriend, while Mary Steenburgen shines as the defense attorney who has to fight for a team that she doesn’t quite believe in. Jonathan Demme’s undercooked drama is well-intentioned and features that famous scene where Hanks describes the opera he’s listening to, but respectability only takes you so far. Ron Nyswaner’s screenplay is polished but lacks a lot of dramatic power, and the end result is less than involving.
Academy Awards: Best Actor (Tom Hanks); Best Original Song (“Streets of Philadelphia”)
Nominations: Best Original Screenplay; Best Makeup; Best Original Song (“Philadelphia”)
Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor-Drama (Tom Hanks); Best Original Song (“Streets of Philadelphia”)
Nomination: Best Screenplay