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Philadelphia

Year: 1993
Studio: Clinica stetico
Director: Jonathan Demme
Producer: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Ron Nyswaner
Cast: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Joanne Woodward, Antonio Banderas
Tom Hanks' true arrival after a decade of teen-style comedy, the high/lowlight of which was 1984's Bachelor Party, and the one that prompted one of the Oscar's most famous teary acceptance speeches.

Cynical Hollywood comment would have it that it scooped the 1993 Oscars because - with such a huge gay population - Hollywood couldn't ignore AIDS any more, and the best way to address a social issue is to make a heartbreaking movie about.

Hanks is Beckett, a lawyer at a high powered firm and the story isn't about him catching AIDS nor his dealing with having it, but about his conservative colleagues elbowing him out of his job and his fight for compensation over their actions, his only willing accomplice an ambulance chasing, homophobic lawyer Miller (Washington).

It's more Miller's story than Beckett's as he goes through the character arc of learning that all life is fragile and precious, even those of 'faggots' whose behaviour and lifestyle he and most of society has long derided. Another great role is that of Mary Steenburgen as the defence attorney, doing her job but apparently against her conscience.

There isn't much of a swelling, triumphant climax as Beckett is too sick to savour his victory, and to that end it leaves the point of the film open to your interpretation - was the fight worth it when it apparently did him no good in the end, or was it about galvanising a precedent not to discriminate against either the sick or gays?

It's a powerhouse performance by Washington as usual, and I think he deserved the Oscar more - as we've seen in the ensuing years Hanks is certainly very good, but he was aided here by the script and direction more so than Washington was. And that's a very early appearance by Banderas as Beckett's boyfriend.

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