Jonathan Demme

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Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film


Thirteen years into the epidemic, Hollywood's first mainstream response to AIDS premiered: Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia. In an attempt to neutralize the inherent difficulties posed by the subject matter (a sexually transmitted and deadly disease) and the characters (male homosexuals), the director consistently described the film as an analysis of prejudice, while Tristar Pictures, which released it, confusedly promoted it as a film that was not really about AIDS or about somebody who had AIDS.

What the film appears to be about is Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), the rising star of Philadelphia's most prestigious law firm. Unbeknownst to his co-workers, Andrew is gay and has AIDS. When the truth is suspected, he is fired on trumped up charges of incompetence and decides to sue his former bosses for AIDS-based discrimination.

Nine lawyers refuse the case as does Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), an avowed homophobic and AIDS-phobic ambulance chaser. He later changes his stance and takes the case as a matter of simple justice although he remains steadfast in his prejudice against gays. With the support of his partner, Miguel (Antonio Banderas), Andrew takes on the system. He wins the case and dies the following day.

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