Friday, March 2, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (Columbia 1993) Sony Home Entertainment

At the time of its release, Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia (1993) was hailed as a breakthrough in casting light on the hushed topics of homosexuality and AIDS with frankness, humility and reverence for both the disease and its’ unfortunate sufferers.

That today the film appears somewhat more heavy-handed and stifling in its motives is perhaps due in part to the fact that the narrative is very much a one premise deal; charting the harrowing legal battle of one Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) – a promising lawyer working for a conservative firm. When the firm discovers that Beckett is gay and further to, that he has the deadly disease, they unceremoniously fire him.

Determined that his life should resonate with lasting purpose, Beckett sues his former employers with the help of homophobic attorney, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). At first, Miller is dead set against helping his client. He grapples with his own motives and personal hatred of the gay community, and, his overriding duty to enforce the principles of law. In the end, Miller realizes that Beckett is no different than any other client he defends who has been wronged by the establishment. He sets aside his differences and the trial commences under a hailstorm of publicity and controversy.

Hanks delivers a sustained and understated emotional powerhouse of a performance. As an audience we experience the suffrage of his illness and injustice of the system. Antonio Bandaras is quite genuine as Beckett’s supportive lover, Miguel Alverez. Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards and Roberta Maxwell provide stellar support. Fueled by Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-winning song ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ the film became one of the biggest money-makers of the year.

Sony Home Entertainment’s Special Edition DVD is just above average; dated colors, slightly pasty flesh tones and overall weak contrast levels, with more than a hint of digital grit in several scenes and slight edge enhancement. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. The benefactor is Springsteen’s song. This is a primarily dialogue driven melodrama. Voices sound a tad strident and lacking in bass tonality. Extras include a retrospective featurette, vintage featurette, audio commentary and theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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