AIDS in the Movie Philadelphia

Satisfactory Essays

Rated: PG-13 Release Date: 23-Dec-1993 DVD Date: 02-Nov-2004 HBS User Ratings
Directed By: Written By: Cast: 1 review, 12 ratings

Jonathan Demme Ron Nyswaner Tom Hanks
Denzel Washington Awesome 16.67%
Antonio Banderas Worth A Look 11.11%
Our Reviewer Says: Jason Robards Just Average 16.67%

"It's a touchy subject."
- MP Bartley
Joanne Woodward Pretty Crappy 44.44%
Mary Steenburgen Sucks 11.11%

Now here's a controversial one - the portrayal of homosexuals and the ravages of AIDS in the movies. How exactly does a machine like Hollywood, not exactly known for its subtlety, cover subjects like these? Does it make a gritty, realistic adult portrayal of the issues at hand? Or does it make a soft-hearted and ultimately dishonest plea for acceptance? Take a guess.

Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is one of Philadelphia's most promising lawyers. He's the hot rookie and is hired by a top law firm headed by Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards). Andy is also gay and dying from AIDS. When the physical signs of the disease begin to manifest themselves, the firm gets cold on Andy and he's out of a job. They tell him it's because he has an attitude problem and his work is mediocre, but Andy knows it's more personal than that. After no other law firm will take his case for unfair dismissal, his last resort is old adversary Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). Joe, a homophobe with an innate fear of AIDS, is reluctant to take the case also because of his personal reasons, but after seeing Andy humiliated in a public library, can't resist standing his corner with him.

You can see immediately why Hollywood took this film to their heart. Hey, it's about ISSUES! But in typical Hollywood fashion, they can't resist the temptation to dumb the issue down to make it easier to sell. It's a difficult thing sometimes, criticising a film like 'Philadelphia' as it leaves the critic open to accusations of homophobia themselves, but 'Philadelphia' patronises the homosexual community so much, it's like an instruction video for schoolkids "Listen kids - gays are people too, you know?".

For instance, Andy's family are a carbon-copy of the Walton's. A more loving, accepting family you could never hope to meet, right down to the last second cousin. But wouldn't it have been more interesting and realistic to show some conflict within the family? Would all of Andy's male heterosexual relatives been so accepting of him? I know people now who are still ostracised from their family because they're gay.
Get Access