Did y’all read John Grisham novels back in JHS (like me); I recall reading a few (which were made into movies that my family and I saw). My fave is (of course) The Pelican Brief, as it stars Denzel Washington; Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard and the supporting cast perform well also. The director was Alan J. Pakula; he also wrote the screenplay. Julia commented that “working w/ Denzel was like working w/ The Beatles.” The Client (starring Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones) has also been considered a good movie w/ touching performances; it was directed by Joel Schumacher. A Time to Kill was the first starring role for Matthew McConaughey (looking gorgeous); he is a young defense lawyer. I liked it when I was younger; it’s NOT that subtle (also directed by Schumacher). It has a strong cast: Donald Sutherland (and son Kiefer), Samuel L. Jackson (the defendant), Kevin Spacey (the district attorney), Sandra Bullock (an ACLU attorney), Ashley Judd, etc. It’s where I discovered Chris Cooper (one of my fave character actors); he just embodies every role he takes on. The first Grisham novel to be made into a movie is (probably) the most well-known- The Firm.
Mitch: Hey Ray, wouldn’t it be funny if I went to Harvard, you went to jail, and we both ended up surrounded by crooks.
Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is a recent Harvard grad w/ a promising future in law. About to sit for the bar exam, he is approached by a small Memphis firm; they make him an offer he doesn’t refuse. Mitch and his wife, Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), are nearly bowled over- they get a luxury car, fully-furnished house, and plenty of Southern hospitality. Also, Mitch will be just across the river from the prison where his older bro is being held. Suddenly, two of the associates are killed while boating in the Cayman Islands. The FBI contact Mitch, asking him for info. He can work with the FBI or stay loyal to the firm. Whatever decision he makes, he’ll lose the successful life he dreamt of since a boy growing up in a trailer park. Mitch thinks up his own plan…
Mitch [to Wayne]: Ten thousand dollars and five years in prison. That’s ten and five for each act. Have you really looked at that? You’ve got every partner in the firm on overbilling. There’s two hundred fifty acts of documented mail fraud there. That’s racketeering! That’s minimum one thousand, two hundred fifty years in prison and half a million dollars in fines. That’s more than you had on Capone.
I saw this movie for the second time recently; I saw it way back in HS. It’s pretty good, though it could’ve been edited down much more (as it clocks in at 2 hrs. 34 mins.) The director was Sydney Pollack; the supporting cast included Ed Harris, Holly Hunter (who got an Oscar nom), David Strathairn (looking good- even in prison garb), Gary Busey (before he went off the rails), Terry Kinney (w/ a full head of blonde hair), Wilford Brimley (in a rare meaty role), and Hal Holbrook. I’m NOT a big fan of Cruise, BUT I think he did a fine job here. There is great chemistry between Cruise and Tripplehorn, so you buy them as a solid/loving couple (though they are still in their 20s). Hackman (who plays senior partner Avery Tolar) does a great job; he goes from intimidating to friendly, then (in the end) becomes rather vulnerable and sympathetic. There is a creep factor in (most of) the scenes between Abby and Avery; he obviously has a thing for her.
Abby: What are they going to do to you?
Avery: Whatever it is, they did it a long time ago.
The firm is all about control; they have the McDeere house bugged and even set traps for Mitch when he is on the Cayman trip. First, he gets hit on by a woman at the bar, as Avery dances nearby. Mitch refuses her advances and goes for a walk on the beach; he comes upon a man acting aggressive w/ a woman. Mitch gets to play the hero- the abusive man rushes off. I learned that Halle Berry tried out for the role of this stranger on the beach (played by former model Karina Lombard). Why does Mitch hook up w/ this woman so quickly!? Well, she is young, unusually beautiful, and tells him a story of wanting to be “safe” (financially). You can see that Mitch connects to this desire. I was surprised that I got a BIT emotional in the end, when Abby comes back to Mitch.
Abby: I’ve loved you all my life. Even before we met. Part of it wasn’t even you. It was just a promise of you. But these last days… You kept your promise. How could you lose me?
Hunter (who wears some loud costumes and colorful wigs) admitted that she never saw this movie. This was the same year that she gained critical acclaim w/ The Piano. I couldn’t help but notice the chemistry between Hunter and Strathairn in one of the last scenes; he’s looking at her like he’s really in love- yowza! During the end credits, we see them sailing off together.