D.J. Haza presents the next entry in his series of films to watch before you die…
Directed by Jonathan Demme.
Starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen and Antonio Banderas.
Philadelphia is one of the first Hollywood films to deal with the sensitive subject of homosexuality, homophobia and the gay community’s struggle with HIV and AIDS. The film was inspired by the true story of attorney Geoffrey Bowers, who successfully sued the law firm that fired him in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases.
The story follows Andrew Beckett (Hanks), a senior associate at Philadelphia’s largest law firm. Beckett is very capable in the work place, but hides his homosexuality from his employers and work colleagues, despite living with his partner Miguel (Banderas). When Beckett is given a very important case to work on one of the company’s partners notices he has a small lesion on his forehead. Wanting to hide his illness Beckett stays at home in order to try and find a way to hide the lesions, but still finishes his work and ensures the file is in the right hands to move forward.
When the document goes missing and Beckett finds himself in hospital with bowel spasms the company question his ability to work and fire him. Believing that someone had purposely hidden his document in order to instigate his firing due to his sexuality and illness Beckett looks for legal representation in order to sue his former employers. After asking several attorneys to take his case and being told no he turns to personal injury lawyer Joe Miller (Washington). Miller is uncomfortable with the case himself and turns it down, but upon seeing the behaviour of others towards Beckett in public he changes his mind.
As Miller battles to earn justice for Beckett the company argue that he was incompetent. After Beckett falls ill during the case and ends up in hospital the jury votes in favour of Beckett and awards him a vast sum of money for back pay and damages. Beckett falls foul to his illness and on his passing away his family and friends, including Miller and his family, watch home movies of Beckett as a child.
The film was received very well by audiences and critics as it grossed over $200,000,000 worldwide and earned Hanks an Oscar for Best Actor as well as the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ also won and Oscar for Best Original Song.
Philadelphia is a film you must see before you die as it is an unbelievable story of prejudice, homophobia and the suffering it causes. The film signaled a shift in Hollywood towards realistic portrayals of gay and lesbian people, but still scenes that were too intimate between Hanks and Banderas were cut as the filmmakers held back on the homosexual affection within the film.