Plot: “When a man with HIV is fired by his law firm because of his condition, he hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.” (imdb.com)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas
Philadelphia has been considered by many as the first big-budget Hollywood film about AIDS. Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is a highly skillful lawyer who works in a big law firm. He suffers from AIDS and, although the senior partners don’t know it yet, they begin to suspect he’s ill after noticing the telltale lesions on his skin. The conservative law firm fires him under the excuse of “incompetence” but that is far from the truth. Beckett knows he was fired because he concealed the fact that he is a gay man suffering from AIDS.
It is already clear how little people knew about HIV/AIDS back then, since his employers were afraid that he was going to transmit the disease to the rest of them. Andrew Beckett is determined to fight and sues the law firm. After being rejected by many lawyers who do not want to represent him, he visits an extremely homophobic lawyer called Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), who reluctantly agrees to take the case. The trial is hard, with homophobia, prejudice and ignorance at every turn.
Aside from the tense courtroom scenes, we’re given glimpses of Andrew’s life. We see his partner, Miguel (Antonio Banderas), taking care of him until the very end, as well as his whole family in a kind of idealised supportive environment that only exists in films. However, it’s heart-warming to see that they are all there for him throughout this difficult time.
The film seems to be designed to appeal to straight audiences and educate them about discrimination. Tom Hanks’ performance is simply outstanding as always. Denzel Washington as the homophobic lawyer who slowly manages to somehow overcome his prejudices is also excellent. All in all, Philadelphia is a beautifully executed film with a very touching ending and an important message.
Learn more about HIV & AIDS on https://www.aids.gov/
Fun Fact #1: The home footage material of Andrew as a little boy at the end of the film is actually videos of Tom Hanks in his childhood.
Fun Fact #2: Tom Hanks won his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Philadelphia. One year later, he won his second Best Actor Oscar for Forrest Gump.