Time: 125 Minutes
AWARDS: Won Oscars for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Song. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Makeup.
I have to say that when I originally saw this movie, I thought, like many people, that Demme had copped out. Mainly, because the first big Hollywood movie about AIDS was more about discrimination than the disease and the people it was affecting. Watching it again recently, I found that I was wrong. PHILADELPHIA is a much stronger movie as a courtroom drama, saying more about the trauma of living with this disease than any movie set in a hospital could have. It captures a truly frightening time in our culture when people who were infected were treated as pariahs instead of given the understanding those dying of a horrible disease deserve. AIDS certainly brought the homosexual lifestyle to the forefront of society, which made most of America extremely uncomfortable.
This film gives the disease a face to identify with, takes us into the life of a decent, intelligent, hard-working individual who loved and was loved, and just happened to be gay. By casting Hanks as Andrew Beckett, the character is immediately likeable and non-threatening. He's America's every man, which makes his character's lifestyle more easily acceptable. Denzel Washington plays Joe Miller, the homophobic lawyer representing Beckett in his unfair termination lawsuit against his old law office. Washington's character is the one who unfolds the film's message that there's no reason to be afraid of gay people, that they're just like everyone else and this disease is a killer no one deserves to catch. In the beginning, he's wary of Andrew, afraid he'll catch AIDS or that people will think he's gay. By the end, he's free of his fears and a stronger person and better lawyer for having known Andrew.