A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know there's considerable discussion about homosexuality and AIDS, as well as painful discussions of who "deserves" to get AIDS. For gay and sensitive viewers, this conversation can be especially triggering. Joe threatens to "kick your faggoty ass" when a man comes up and hits on him in a drug store. The film also shows Joe's wife giving birth and Tom Hanks' character surrounded by family as he passes away.
What's the story?
Attorney Andy Beckett (Tom Hanks) is rising up the ranks at his prestigious law firm. He balances court hearings, depositions, meetings with the partners, and calls from his mom. But he's also keeping two very big secrets: He's gay and he has AIDS. When Andy gets fired from his job a month after a lesion appears on his forehead, he sues his former employers. He hires black attorney Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to represent him. Joe's prejudices against homosexuals begin to fade as he begins to see the bigger picture of discrimination. What ensues is a legal battle that puts the way America treats gay people with AIDS on trial, and finds us guilty.
Is it any good?
Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington give blockbuster performances in this intense drama with a timely and compelling plot. PHILADELPHIA asks the question of how we treat people who have sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS and especially when they're gay. The pacing and structure of the film are designed by director Jonathan Demme to treat the viewer as the jury. The arguments are taut and compelling. And Hanks' gaunt reserve and quiet despair as he loses his battle with the disease are mesmerizing.
Sure, the film is emotionally manipulative, but many great movies are. Yet Andy isn't allowed to be anything less than the patron saint of AIDS victims. What few dark secrets he has are brushed off with the supportive look of his family. Andy is masculine, loved by his family, his partner is accepted by everyone, and Andy is, of course, rich. One wonders how viewers would think of a gay AIDS patient who had been ostracized by his family, who was effeminate, who was poor, and maybe wasn't quite as perfect of a human being. Would he be any less deserving of respect and justice?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about STDs and safe sex. Can you tell who has an STD and who doesn't just by looking at them? What do kids at your school think? Families can also talk about how they feel as a family about gay issues. Do you object when people use anti-gay language at school? Do you feel the way Joe does when people start accusing him of being gay because he represents Andy? Has the social climate changed for gay people and people with AIDS since this movie came out? How has it gotten better and how has it gotten worse? Which people in the public eye are "out" that you're aware of and how are they treated by the media? Do you think they have more pressure than straight famous people?
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