Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer infected with AIDS, is fired from his conservative law firm in fear that they might contract AIDS from him. After Andrew is fired, in a last attempt for peace, he sues his former law firm with the help of a homophobic lawyer, Joe Miller. During the court battle, Miller sees that Beckett is no different than anyone else on the gritty streets of the city of brotherly love, sheds his homophobia and helps Beckett with his case before AIDS overcomes him.
Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett. As well, a very new-to-English-movies Antonio Banderas played Beckett's long-time partner Miguel - a career choice that to me, an absolute outsider to the world of film, has always seemed courageous and perhaps risky. But let's leave that aside for now - I want to talk about what this film has meant to me.
When the movie was released, I was 18, and had just emerged from an upbringing in a very conservative Christian household, where gay and right didn't belong in the same sentence - my parents were overtly disgusted by homosexuality. Even after I left, I had a hell of a lot of stuff to figure out for myself - my own life and beliefs. For a number of years, giving serious consideration to gay rights wasn't high on my list.
Flashforward to, say, 1997 or so, when I was really unshackled from the guilt and fear that had been instilled in me for so many years. I had a good friend who volunteered at a local AIDS support project, and I really credit her with beginning to truly challenge me around homosexuality. I had parroted my parents' words on this for so long, even while questioning the other teachings of my youth - why hadn't I challenged these teachings as well? I didn't have a good answer.
I watched Philadelphia. I am so grateful for the way the movie was made, that it didn't shy away from showing even one of the protagonists, Joe Miller, struggling with his feelings about gays and lesbians, because it illustrated myself to me. I was a Joe Miller. I'd had minimal exposure to gay and lesbian individuals - at least that I knew of. Ignorance led to fear, and fear to...if not hatred, then certainly disgust.
I know the big revelatory event for the theatre elite and the GLBT community and AIDS activists in the 1990s was Angels in America. Well, I didn't have access to AiA. Philadelphia was accessible to me . This was pivotal, and important, and real. I heard the message and I took it to heart.
For Philadelphia, then, an unqualified 10/10.