At my husband's suggestion/request (he's a lover of what is known as "oldies but goodies") I've decided to add another category to these film reviews; Classics. I believe he's given me an excellent idea, to use these reviews as a way to re-introduce viewers to some titles they may have forgotten about, overlooked, or perhaps (as is my case a lot of the time) never heard of! So, hear goes the first of what may likely be many "Classic" film reviews.
As I've previously mentioned, my husband is in his second year of law school (thus contributing to my time to watch more movies! Ha ha). As an interesting twist, a professor of his teaching a course on professional responsibility (and the law) assigned The Verdict to her class. Being the ever supportive wife that I am, I agreed to screen this one with him and then of course contribute to the mandatory brow-furrowing-what-does-this-mean-to-the-legal-profession discussion.
The Verdict (released in 1982) starring Paul Newman, as the drunken personal injury lawyer, Frank Galvin, presents the story of a by all accounts, down-and-out ambulance chaser, known for his boozing and questionable moral outlook on life. Due to the generosity of a former business partner, Galvin is handed a medical malpractice case; by all accounts primed to win a very large sum of money.
The case, a dreadful malpractice suit against a Catholic hospital and its bumbling treatment of a pregnant woman which causes the death of her baby and the near death of the mother (she is left in a vegetative state in a long-term care facility), manages to pull what is left of Galvin's heart strings, leading him to seek more than the customary "we're very sorry for our screw up" sum of money; justice and a well-deserved audible apology to the victim's family. (I should mention, The Verdict is quite timely these days as the story of Abbi Dorn is gracing the pages the CNN [see link here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/04/22/california.triplets.visitation.lawsuits/index.html]).
Despite the morally questionable behavior of the opposing counsel, church leaders, and even his love interest, through the duration of the trial we witness Galvin morph into a person of honor, set on winning not just money but the deep-seated apologies of the hospital, hospital staff, and most importantly - the Church.
Galvin's star witness, the former hospital admitting nurse, Kaitlin Costello, blows the case wide open with an admission of guilt and detailed description of questionable procedures that occurred in the aftermath of the incident. Of course, opposing counsel attempts to damage her credibility as a reliable witness, using her own mental breakdown and eventual departure from the hospital as fodder for their claims. Surely, she can not be trusted! But the judge believes otherwise...
Newman gives a command performance (as can be expected from this veteran actor) and in the absence of other notable namesake stars, carries the film. He gives us an honest portrayal of a down-trodden man and tugs a bit on our own heart strings as we start to pull for Galvin and hope to see him succeed in the case.
The Verdict was nominated for 5 Academy Awards:
Best Picture - Richard D. Zanuk and David Brown
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Paul Newman
Best Actor in a Supporting Role- James Mason
Best Director - Sidney Lumet
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - David Manet
The Verdict comes recommended for Newman fans and move-goers who enjoy the slow, deliberate pace of a Classic (and may attract those interested in exploring the moral obligations and professional responsibility required of those in the legal profession).
The Bee Charmer Rating: B