Monday, October 13, 2014

The Judge
The Judge is a movie you expect from the outset, due to the advance trailers to be good.  It is the story of a son, Hank Palmer played by Robert Downy Junior who is a defense attorney in a large city and has no qualms about defending guilty clients, "they pay well because they are guilty." He is estranged from of his father, Joseph Palmer played by Robert Duval. The Judge is a judge whose integrity is of tantamount importance to him as he understand the value and importance of his job. Judge Palmer has reason to be upset with his son Hank and he has been upset for many years. He has two other sons, one with developmental disabilities who has a fascination with video and another who had a promising career in baseball snatched from him as the result of a car accident while in high school. 

When Judge Palmer's wife dies, Hank comes home to the small town he grew up in. He is going through a divorce with his wife who slept with another man, he also has a daughter he loves and wants so much to be the father to he thinks he never had.  While back where he grew up at the moments between Hank and The Judge (as Hank calls his father) is awkward at best and it is clear the two don't want to be around each other. After a tragic event where someone is killed Joseph Palmer is charged with murder and due to various events, Hank takes on the case to defend his father against the state prosecutor played by Billy Bob Thornton. Hank is going through conflicts related to his dad and the impeding divorce, his love for his daughter and rediscovering a relationship with his former girlfriend from high school played by Vera Farmiga known for her role in the television series Psycho and the hit horror film The Conjuring.

The direction of The Judge is nothing short of brilliant. The film, directed by David Dobkin shows that one can make an intelligent, entertaining movie without the explosions, violence, sex, language and other forms many have come to associate with entertainment. There is no doubt the story and script drive this story. Dobkin does an incredible job at allowing that to happen while using a bevy of talent in his acting troupe. Everything about the film is 1st class, from the editing, sound, music selections, cinematography and especially, the acting. 

www.thevirtualpew.comI have seen many movies with Robert Duval and I honestly love and appreciate this mans talent. While I wouldn't go so far as to say this is the best acting I have seen him do, I will say it holds up among the best. Robert Downy Jr. on the other hand is nothing short of phenomenal. On his behalf, for me, this is the best acting I have ever seen him do. If he can be nominated and win awards for other films, it would be a shame to not be considered and at this point, be the front runner for the upcoming Oscar season. There are scenes where he isn't saying anything with words but saying and doing a brilliant job with his expressions. If great acting is being believable in the role you are performing, Downy and Duval together may be among the top acting forces on screen together in the history of movies. I can't think of a better duo in any movie and I have seen a lot of movies.

One of the things I like about The Judge is its use of trailers in kindling interest, that initial start of interest though doesn't describe the blaze that comes about after seeing the movie. While my interest was peaked from the trailers, the film on screen projected so much more than I expected. For over 2 hours, I was enthralled, entertained and provoked to thought.  

www.thevirtualpew.comThe Judge in many ways is a father son story. There are two seemingly distant characters and their relationship has much to be desired. The father blames the son and the son is a proud man, yet, so he desperately wants the love and recognition of his father. I don't know if a better father son story has been made since Field of Dreams. This movie is that good and in some ways, better. We see conflict and sacrifice but we also see a hurting father and son. Both are at fault. They both have way too much pride. The father believes the son is responsible for a tragic event and the son wants to be recognized for his own accomplishments which the father refuses to do. The son is to stubborn to try and make amends. It takes some time and an understanding of what his father is facing before he gives in. A side note here. The film is so good that it has the viewer even contemplating what it was that caused the rift between the two to be so strong. I may be out on a limb but I think part of it is there is the possibility, and my wife and I who saw the film together agree, the that Hank takes the blame for a tragic accident that his brother Glen, the baseball player, may have been responsible for. We don't know, the answer isn't given but the direction and script are so brilliantly portrayed that one may think about things like this during and after the  movie.

www.mosaicwichita.comIn my own life, I never knew a father it is one of the reasons the film is so powerful. I see what is transpired on screen portrayed in real life all of the time and as a father, know that at times, I have crossed the boundaries and been unrealistic in how I see my own children. It is a powerful attributes of movies, they allow one to think and reflect on their own life. There is even a discussion of God in the film as the father and son realize there may be more to life than the life we live on this earth. We see them come to an understanding that our present may have an impact on our eternal. I also reflected on the reminder of the strength of family and love family should have. It is when sacrificially showing love for his father that things start to find some resolution. There is an acceptance that comes about because of a willingness to love, even in the most disgusting ways but that is a part of what love is and it is through those horrid experiences that one begins to experience love, not in a superficial way but in a real lasting way. It was and is a reminder for me of the love God had and continues to have for me. His own son was sacrificed for the wrongs I have committed and he loves me as I am despite my own frailties and weaknesses. 

I honestly can't think of a single thing about The Judge I didn't like. Last year there was Nebraska but in many ways, while this is more commercial, it is just as good if not better and that is saying something. I highly suspect that I will go back to see this movie again, preferably on the big screen but it is also a must purchase when it comes out on DVD or is available for purchase with extras via streaming formats. Duvall is at the top of this game, Downy has never been better and the supporting cast is excellent. I can't think of a better, more thought provoking movie that I have seen this year than The Judge. 

On a scale of 1 - 10, for the 10 letters in excellence, I give a rare, well deserved , 10. 

To see the interview with Robert Downy Jr. with Jimmy Fallon, click on the video below, if the video doesn't work, click on the following link:


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