I saw this movie when it was first released in theaters and was moved by the film’s tone and message. Ten years later, I am still stunned by the movie’s powerful performances and story line. Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer who is fired from the firm when the partners discover Beckett has AIDS. Denzel Washington is Joe Miller, the lawyer who reluctantly represents Beckett in the lawsuit that Beckett brings against his former employers. Miller has the same reservations and concerns about Beckett’s lifestyle and disease that the defendants do. The film becomes more than just justice and overcoming prejudice, it is a film about human bonding and getting past misconceptions.
Fans of Tom Hanks will be shocked to see how much weight he lost for this role. If you thought his dedication for Castaway to be impressive, you will be blown away by what he did for this role. Antonio Banderas (playing Beckett’s lover) and Denzel Washington add their own powerhouse character work, and watching the anniversary edition quickly reminds viewers why all of these men have done well in Hollywood.
The initial DVD release of Philadelphia was sparse in terms of extra material, but this edition more than makes up for it. Some of the features included on this DVD are commentary by director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, the making-of-feature "People Like Us: Making Philadelphia," a documentary "One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave," deleted scenes, Bruce Springsteen’s music video for "Streets of Philadelphia," and more. This film and DVD are a must-have for movie fanatics.
I offer a word of warning for viewers who may have missed the film’s initial release. Philadelphia is a very stark look at gay prejudice, AIDS and homophobia, and the cruel reality of dying too young. This is an amazing film and great DVD, but if these themes are going to offend you, understand that I have warned you, but I still challenge you to watch it.
GRADE: A (movie) A (DVD)