A Return

April 1, 2008

Without adjectives. Not a triumphant one, nor an especially promising one, but a return nonetheless. In fact, I return in praise. Sure, much has happened these last few days that are deserving of a post (not the least of which are the ingenious funding proposal for the Columbus Streetcar or the incredible lack of courage that Barack Obama showed in his wishy-washy response to “pennygate-aught-eight,” or his lack of forward vision in rejecting prison island). In fact, our return wasn’t even inspired by the recent brouhaha (from the French) over the disappearance of the newspaper movie reviewer and David Carr’s aloud-pondering about the blogosphere’s abilities to provide true critical coverage (and not just mind-numbing headlines like, “300 Is the Worst Movie Ever.”) No, my return was sponsored by something much more timely: the birthday of that great scholar of Kabbalistic folkways and their reflections in numismatics, Rabbi Dr. Professor Jurgen Haverstam, DHL. So, in his honour, a review of his favourite movie: Reversal of Fortune.

Reversal of Fortune tells the obscure story of the Claus Von Bulow trial. Based on the book by Alan Dershowitz, Reversal of Fortune is almost a movie without a hero. Dershowitz (played by the excellent Ron Silver) is a flawed hero, willing to play Robin Hood (taking money from the rich to pay for his pro-bono cases) even if it means defending obviously guilty clients. While the character admits that a lawyer does not have the luxury of always defending innocent clients, and upholds the value of the system, Dershowitz attempts to have it both ways, picking and choosing morality as he sees fit, and wiping his hands of the mess later on. While not a problem when choosing a lawyer (probably a plus), it does lead to moviemaking problems. In general, the problem of having a moral-yet-morally-ambiguous lead is a microcosm of the moviemaker’s dilemma as a whole: how do we tell such a story without taking sides? How do we make Von Bulow appear both likable as a main character and detestable as a potential murderer? Thankfully, Jeremy Irons was the perfect answer. His Von Bulow is seductive yet mannered to the point that everything seems like an act. He’s been rehearsing his life like an actor rehearses his lines. We suspect him of anything and yet we also suspect that the only thing he may be guilty of is being suspicious. At this point, I’ve seen the movie twice and come to two different conclusions as to Von Bulow’s guilt. Such is the masterful way that the movie was handled, helped most notably by its stylish direction, and the always excellent Fisher Stevens. It would, at some point, be interesting to compare this film with Michael Clayton as the two offer very different looks at morality and the law. And perhaps even a structural comparison with Desperate Housewives is in order as the ABC dramedy would later adopt Reversal’s mode of storytelling.

But in the meantime I’ll content myself with wishing the good doctor a happy birthday whilst holding out hope that he will soon be featured on the excellent justcommentary podcast.

One Response to “A Return”

  1. Rabbi Dr. Prof. Jurgen Haverstam, DHL Says:

    I thank you and leave you with but one insight. Ron Silver, also of Time Cop fame, is the token Hollywood (neo)conservative. Perhaps he was able to send himself into the future and thus predict the end of history. מיט הארציקן דאנקשאפט

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