Welcome to The Daily Cup a movie blog/writing project by Kyle B. Dekker, presented by Hot Chocolate Media. You can read series concept here. The basic rules, Kyle must watch 365 movies in 2018 and write about all of them. 292 of them have to be movies he's never seen before. Thanks for reading.
Checking off some classics and legendary directors is one of the main goals of this project. Two names that keep coming up on many cinephile lists that are mostly absent from my viewing history are Sidney Lumet and David Mamet. I plan to watch several more movies from these two men, but for today’s installment I’ve started with The Verdict (1982). A well crafted courtroom drama starring Paul Newman, directed by Lumet with a screenplay by Mamet. I discovered this film through the 80s All Over podcast, a show I highly recommend for any film fan.
The Verdict is the story of washed up and has been attorney Frank Galvin (Newman). He’s a drunk who has worked just a handful of cases in recent years and is reduced to ambulance chasing and looking for clients at funerals. The early 80s were before the days of 1-800 liability attorney sue happy firms, and Frank’s career is effectively over. Frank is handed a easy money case from his long time mentor Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden) out of pity and friendship. It should be an easy case, a women suffered an accident while giving birth in a Catholic hospital, and the diocese is willing to settle for $210,000 (about half a million in today’s money). Frank learns that there is real criminal negligence in the case and that he can make some big time money from it. He decides to try the case, but his slam dunk case gets sabotaged, and he suddenly finds himself working a righteous case for the wrong reasons with little chance to win.
The true triumph of this film is Frank’s journey to get justice for his client, at a point in the movie he has a second chance to take the settlement, but for the sake of his own soul he must try the case. Once the odds are against him, he nearly gives up, but he soldiers on as it is the only thing he can do. We see both sides of the trial resorting to dity and dishonest tactics, the behavior that earns many lawyers an often well earned reputation. We do know Frank is on the side of justice, but the odds are against him. The ultimate theme of the film is the little guy versus the big guy, rich versus poor, blue collar versus white collar. This segment from Frank’s ending speech sums it up perfectly:
“ And there is no justice: the rich win, the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time, we become dead... a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims... and we become victims. We become... we become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions. And we doubt the law.”
It is a testament to how good the writing is in the film that this speech is just a relevant today as it was 36 years ago. Paul Newman’s performance is chilling, you feel his heartbreak and his broken spirit in every scene. We’ve known people like Frank in life, we’ve all felt like Frank before in our lives. This is a sad, relatable, and amazing performance.
The Verdict is a gorgeous film, much more than the courtroom drama it appears to be on the surface. Masterfully directed with dramatic camera work of a caliber you’d never expect in the genre. The performances and emotions ooze from the screen with so much empathy and humanity your heart will be inside your throat, ready to cry or roar at any moment. As the audience we relate to the anxiety, fragility, and fear of failure in the face of doing the right thing. This film is a masterpiece, and I will be watching it again in the future.
Movies new to me watched: 43/292
Other movies: 9/73
Total movies watched: 52/365
Have your own thoughts or opinions on this movie? Comment below or contact Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @kbdekker.