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All Men are Created Equal
Jul 07, 2009 02:44 PM 2858 Views
(Updated Jul 09, 2009 12:05 PM)

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There is a scene in Philadelphiawhen Joe Miller( Denzel Washington) tells a TV reporter.*


"Angela, we're standing in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, thebirthplace of freedom, where our Founding Fathersauthored the Declaration of Independence. And I don't remember that glorious document saying"All straight men are createdequal." I could have sworn it says, "All menare created equal."


That dialogue in anutshell encapsulates the very message of the movie. Joe Miller, was an average every day lawyer in the city of Philadelphia. He was successful, doing well, having a comfortable house in the suburbs, a loving family. And like any average person, he has a hatred for gays. He can’t accept the fact that two men can fall in love, have a relationship, live together. For him, it is something totally unnatural.


But then circumstances force him to reevaluate his action, when he is approached by Andrew Beckett( Tom Hanks), seeking legal redressal for being fired without sufficient reason. Beckett is successful lawyer, working for one of Philadelphia’s leading legal firms, headed byCharles Wheeler( Jason Robards). Beckett however happens to be Gay, living in with his male partner Miguel(Antonio Banderas), a fact he has not disclosed to his employers. And what is worse he, is suffering from AIDS. While Beckett, feels this was the reason, he was fired by his firm, his bosses justify his dismissal on grounds of“incompetence”. And they point to a previous case, where Beckett, had missed out on an important file, as proof. Never mind the fact that till then Beckett had been regarded as one of the firm’s leading lawyers.


Miller is reluctant to take up the case, partly due to his aversion for Gays, and also his fears of interacting with an AIDS victim. Though Miller is aware that AIDS is spread only by sexual contact or blood transfusion, he has his own fears.But witnessing the way people, behave in the law library, when they hear that Beckett is an AIDS victim, Miller feels motivated to take up the case. Miller’s wife Lisa’s sympathetic attitude towards Gays, also helps Miller empathize with Beckett’s condition.


Right from the start to the moment, the end credits flash on the screen, Philadelphia is a movie that grips your attention. Beckett is discriminated on 2 levels, he is Gay and he happens to be AIDS afflicted. The early 90’s was the time, people still did not have much idea about AIDS, and so for Beckett its like a double whammy. The very same company that praises him as a star performer, begins to shun him like plague, and in order to justify their act, they cover it up with an excuse of incompetence.


Ironically director Jonathan Demme, had attracted accusations of gay phobia for his previous movie The Silence of the Lambs. Philadelphia was a way of making amends for it I guess. It also helped that script was written by Ron Nysamer, who a gay himself. Barring his sexual preferences, Beckett is like any other average person, with a good job, and even a loving family. One of the best scenes in the movie is the meeting between Miller and Beckett in the law library. Miller at first tries to avoid Beckett, and then he sees other people moving away. And slowly as he listens to Beckett’s version, we see their VO’s, the camera shots panning, and after some time, Miller comes over to Beckett’s side. Its as if he is now more accepting, but just then Beckett sneezes, and Miller jumps back. So near yet, so far. Miller is willing to take up Beckett’s case, but the distance is there.


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