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Homosexual Andrew Beckett, a talented lawyer at a stodgy Philadelphia law firm, is infected with AIDS. He gets fired because his colleagues are afraid of contracting AIDS from him. Andrew then hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.
What remains most striking about Philadelphia may be the...conspicuous emphasis on intense close-ups. They force an inescapable emotional intimacy in relation to issues the mainstream, at least at the time, would rather have looked away from. [Blu-ray]
Jonathan Demme's thoughtful human drama was certainly not the first movie to confront the AIDS crisis, but it was, even in the conventional skin of a courtroom drama, the most heartbreaking and passionate undertaking of its kind.
Wearing its heart on its sleeves, this well-intentioned but soft and compromised AIDS drama may nonetheless perform the same function that Paltoon or Schindler's List have: Change public opinion about an urgent problem.
[An] extremely well-made message picture about tolerance, justice and discrimination is pitched at mainstream audiences, befitting its position as the first major Hollywood film to directly tackle the disease.
October 10, 2008
New York Times
"Philadelphia" mostly succeeds in being forceful, impassioned and moving, sometimes even rising to the full range of emotion that its subject warrants. But too often, even at its most assertive, it works in safely predictable ways.
May 20, 2003
This AIDS courtroom drama is so pumped full of nitrous oxide, you could get your teeth drilled on it.