Twenty-seven years later, lessons about discrimination and treating people with dignity and respect as found in the film, “Philadelphia,” are needed more than ever.
“Philadelphia” centers on Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks). Beckett is known as an attorney with a love for the law who fights for his clients. He works in one of the most prestigious law firms in Philadelphia on cases that not only make history but set legal precedents. While Beckett is public about most of his life, there are a few areas he keeps to himself. He hides the fact he is gay and is undergoing treatment for HIV from his bosses, fearing what might happen to him if they find out. However, when his secret is found out by a colleague, Beckett is fired.
With few options, Beckett reaches out to a fellow attorney who he has gone up against in court, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), to represent him in a wrongful termination suit against his former employers. At first, Miller declines to represent him but, after witnessing how Beckett is discriminated against because he has HIV, he decides to take the case.
I know it is easy to think discrimination is a thing of the past but it’s not. It is present today more than ever and that’s a sad fact to report. “Philadelphia” shows how hurtful bigots are and exposes the damage they do on society with their hateful and small-minded ideas and beliefs.
“Philadelphia” shows how people can change after taking a deep look inside themselves. This transformation is shown in Miller. When he wouldn’t initially take on Beckett’s case, it was because he harbored prejudices against people who were gay. He changed his way of thinking, however, after placing himself in Beckett’s shoes upon seeing him being discriminated against at the library. The more Miller works with Beckett on the case, the more he sees him as a person and later considers him a friend. Washington provides audiences with a tremendous performance.
Hanks gave everything he had into this role. He shows that a person who is gay or who has HIV is not a stereotype or the punchline at the end of a joke. He shows they are people whose lives matter and whose contributions make the world a better place. The emotion he brings to Beckett at times is quiet but powerful. One such moment is when he is turned down for legal representation by Miller. After stepping outside of Miller’s office and onto the street, Beckett starts to choke up. You can see the feeling of hopelessness spread across his face as he thinks about his next course of action.
“Philadelphia” is a film with a powerful story that needs to be seen and taken to heart. I give this movie nine out of 10 stars. It is rated PG-13 for some graphic language and thematic material. The movie runs for 125 minutes.