Still via TriStar Pictures
A movie is good when it not only has a great story, but when it also makes a statement about society’s stigma on homosexuals, AIDS, and the relationships between homophobes and queers.
To put it simply (even though you really can’t), this movie is about a closeted gay lawyer who gets fired from his corporate law firm because he “misplaced an important complaint for an upcoming case but, somehow, it showed up just in time to be filed.”
However, the lawyer believes that he was fired because he is a homosexual diagnosed with AIDS. Played ever so beautifully by Tom Hanks, the lawyer, named Andrew Beckett, seeks representation to sue the firm, but all of the attorneys he had asked deny him. One special attorney named Joe Miller (played by Denzel Washington) has a meeting with Beckett, but because of his homophobia and little knowledge about AIDS, he declines the case.
The movie progresses and Beckett is researching cases to put up a good argument, and slowly but surely, others around him start to move away. The librarian brings a book to Beckett and then tells him that there is a private research room available. Knowing the librarian is uncomfortable; Beckett declines and confronts the librarian’s comfortableness.
Miller, witnessing all this discrimination and hate, sits across from Beckett and accepts the case. They work together to put up a case, but both receive a lot of backlash for doing so. The courtroom scenes are quite dramatic, even going as far as Beckett showing his lesions on his body to prove a point.
During a testimony, Beckett faints and is rushed to the hospital. After deliberation, the jury awards damages to Beckett totaling to $5 million. Beckett, happy with the outcome, is deathly ill, and unfortunately, dies on his hospital bed. The movie ends with all of Beckett’s family and friends, along with Miller, watching home movies of Beckett.
This movie is not only a damn good movie, but it has quite an impact. When the AIDS dilemma broke out in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, people were misinformed and generally thought they contracted AIDS through a simple handshake or a slight touch. Little did they know that the only way(s) of contracting HIV/AIDS was through blood transfusions and/or bodily fluids.
The writers and director depicted that accurately in the movie, showing people fearing the presence of homosexuals or people with HIV/AIDS. One important scene is the meeting between Beckett and Miller. Beckett shakes hands, touches a picture frame, and places his hat on Miller’s desk. The audience automatically sees the terror flashed in Miller’s eyes.
Miller then visits a doctor and wonders if he contracted the disease. Sure enough, the doctor informs him that he hasn’t. What that scene demonstrates is the general fear felt back then and also now. To this day, there are thousands of people who fear coming in touch with people who have this disease. There are even more people who fear seeing a person with HIV or AIDS.
It’s quite unfortunate that this type of discrimination still goes on to this day. To those who state that this isn’t discrimination, it is. Additionally, Beckett had to hide his sexuality because he worried about his job security.
Even today, Beckett is not the only one. A great number of people fear “coming out” because of the societal stigma placed upon them.
But let’s try to focus on the positive. This movie showed that even queer people are human and that any emotion or conflict they go through IS humane. It also showed that through communication and honesty, homophobes could actually come around to see that homosexuals ARE human.
Philadelphia is a movie I’ll always tear up for. It tugs at my heart with its sincerity, but more importantly, shows that everyone, regardless of sexuality, deserves a chance and that stigmas should be put to an end.