Philadelphia (1993)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Courtroom Drama, Gay & Lesbian Films, Medical Drama, Message Movie  |   Release Date - Dec 24, 1993 (USA)  |   Run Time - 125 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Jason Clark

Widely noted as the first mainstream studio film to deal with AIDS, and featuring two of the world's biggest actors (Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington), Jonathan Demme's moving, well-intentioned drama, despite its naysayers, is a challenging and sometimes surprising work. Both leads (especially Hanks, in his first Oscar-winning role) deliver wonderfully nuanced portrayals, and Demme's signature touches (particularly the potent use of close-ups and music) are perfectly suited to this material. Denounced by many gay audiences as timid and tentative about its central romantic pairing (Hanks and Antonio Banderas) -- not to mention its eagerness to please mass American viewers -- the film nonetheless benefits from its decency and warm approach in dealing with its characters. For whatever missteps the film makes (framing a deeply tragic character study within the auspices of a courtroom drama, for one), its emotions are indelible and its risk-taking is appreciated. Bruce Springsteen won an Oscar for his haunting, elegant opening-titles theme, "Streets of Philadelphia," and in an odd case of art imitating life, Hanks' tearful, memorable Oscar acceptance speech (where he thanked his gay acting teacher from years back) became the source material for the 1997 comedy In & Out, starring Kevin Kline.