Saturday, October 11, 2014

Theatrical Review: The Judge

Date: October 11, 2014
Location: Cinemark Theater in Stroud Mall

Time: 12:40pm
Party: 2 (my mom and I)

"Judge" Joseph Palmer- Robert Duvall
Hank Palmer- Robert Downey Jr
Gene Palmer- Vincent D'Onofrio
Dale Palmer- Jeremy Strong
Sam Powell- Vera Farmiga
Lauren Palmer- Emma Tremblay
C.P. Kennedy- Dax Shepard
Prosecutor Dwight Dickham- Billy Bob Thorton
Carla Powell- Leighton Meester

Running time: 142 minutes (+7 trailers)


Audience and Trailers
OMG... this is probably one of the most packed theaters I'd ever been in. My mom and I had to take seats in the back row of the "orchestra" section because the preferred mezzanine seating was full except for a few patches of 3-4 seats.
The last time I'd been in that situation was at the "Twilight" midnight showing.I'd say it was 3/4 full. I don't know if it was because or RDJ or the fact it was raining outside or it was a slow weekend, but either way, it was great to see. Team Downey gets its money's worth either way.

It's been a while since I'd been at a movie with this many previews. I got to the point where I had to start writing them down and I completely forgot why we came.
Which I guess was kind of refreshing. I'd been so anxious about whether this movie would be showing locally or if I'd even like it. [Either way, I was covered]

1. a teaser trailer for "Into The Wood," which is one of three movies I want to go out to see this year...

2. a hilarious looking Kevin Hart movie called "The Wedding Ringer" where he offers his services as a Best Man to Josh Gad (I wonder if he got this role cuz of "Frozen" where he was so lovable as Olaf the snowman)

3. "Mordecai," which had me thinking immediately of Ralph Fiennes in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," but the title role is played Johnny Depp (totally unrecognizable, didn't know it was him until his name came up)

4. the latest Nicholas Sparks book-to-movie adaption "Best of Me" (which co-stars Michelle Monaghan from "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang")

5. a based-on-a-true-story film about a P.O.W. from WWII Japan called "Unbroken" directed by Angelina Jolie

6. "Inherent Vice," starring a very whacked out looking Joaquin Phoenix

7. "American Sniper" starring Bradley Cooper... the trailer was about as intense as any given scene in "The Hurt Locker"... it looks like another amazing movie, but not necessarily one I'd flock to a theater to see.

The Review
[Beyond any ratings, I avoided reading any detailed reviews beforehand so this review is simply my opinion of this film]

I'll get the punchlines out of the way right now...
This movie was GOOD.

Would I necessarily have gone to see it if not for the fact that it was Team Downey's first film production and it stars my favorite actor?
Most likely not... really cerebral thoughtful movies like these, I only go out to see them or look into them unless I can get invested in the people involved. As one review said, this particular cast is what makes this movie work.

I'd seen Robert play a lawyer twice before. He was a newbie to the profession in "True Believer," working under James Woods' character.
He won me over in a huge way with his run on "Ally McBeal"... not only as a great lawyer, but an all-around great character. I wrote two short stories about Larry Paul, if not for the name changes, that could almost be construed as fanfiction. When I was going through hard times, he was a lot of comfort to me.

For me, it was hard to really gauge how good a lawyer he was in particular role because this was more than just a courtroom drama. This was about family and about, however much you want to run away from it, where you come from is important to you as a person.

We first find Hank Palmer, a big-time Chicago lawyer, working a, seemingly, unwinnable case. He's forced to file an extension when he gets the news that his mom passed away. He hasn't been back to his hometown in Indiana since his high school graduation and if not for the events that unfold, he wouldn't have stayed longer than he had to.

After a very touching moment when he greets his mother at her casket, we're introduced to the rest of his family.
His younger brother Dale, played by Jeremy Strong, is probably this movie's biggest scene stealer. He's described as being "developmentally delayed" so it felt like being around a less exaggerated Rain Man who loves making home movies. He's a very sweet guy who means well and without meaning to, produces some of this movie's funniest lines. If this movie wins any Oscars, he certainly will.
Vincent D'Onofrio plays the big brother, Glen. He was a promising baseball player if not for a car accident. Throughout the movie, he's the guy who tries to hold the family together and tries to make Hank understand why that's so important.

Then we have The Judge himself... Robert Duvall playing a very stubborn old man. We first see him in his element. In this case, presiding over a child support case. Judge Judy would have been proud. Right away, it's pretty obvious why Hank got into his profession and why he's so good at it.

The funeral comes and goes. We get a preview of the relationship of the two men, however fractured and impersonal it is. Hank is literally on his ride home when the major plot kicks into gear: The Judge has been accused of vehicular homicide.

Initially, Dax Shepard is his lawyer, but he's a little green and inexperienced for this. We get this running gag (even when he's downgraded to 2nd chair) where he's puking on the grass before going into the courthouse. Hank makes somewhat of a scene during the preliminary hearing (one of many LOL moments this movie has... he was right, there was a great balance between comedy and drama in this film) and winds up becoming the first counsel.

We also have a side-bar with Hank, his high school girlfriend Sam, and her daughter Carla... another source of hilarity that builds steadily throughout the film.

I thought to myself during my "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" review how I wish RDJ had more make-out scenes in his movies. I get what I asked for on two occasions.
The chemistry between him and Vera Farmiga really pulled me into one of the scenes. To the point where I almost wish I was in her place. :P
That side-bar aside, this is one of those movies where it pays to pay attention. I won't give anything away because other reviews have, but the pieces are come together roughly halfway through the movie. Even before they come out and announce it.

I got a little choked up during the scene where he was at his mom's casket since his mom recently passed away in real life.
And I loved his relationship with his daughter, Lauren. Things are pretty rough with him and his father. While he is absent in her life, his love is still very evident. When his new daughter arrives in real life, I hope to see that side of him transcends as well. It'll certainly be a brand new experience for him as a dad.

As a film overall, it was really well done. You get really invested in the characters and stick with them through all of the dramatics, laughter and tears.
My attention was held the whole time. The only doubt that came about in my head was during a dramatic climax during a tornado warning, a huge confrontation between Hank and The Judge, explaining just why their relationship has been so estranged.
I was afraid things were just going to go south, but sure enough, things picked up. Having The Judge on the witness stand helped explain a lot of things and even though it was part of the case, it felt like the emotional understanding these two really needed to repair their relationship.

It was some pretty amazing acting on both of their parts.

I will stand by the fact this is probably one of Robert's best acting jobs ever. Is it enough to get him an Oscar? By the end of this film, I found it really hard to argue FOR the Oscar. Just because other actors like Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall dominated certain scenes more than he did.
But come Oscar time, I will still fight for him. Even if I'm unable to explain why outside of being one of his biggest fans. And it'll give me a bigger/better excuse to get it on DVD. :P

As for the family aspect after the film, my mom and I loved it. Most likely we'll go into more detail about what it means to us outside of the story on a later date, but both of us were definitely captivated by the characters and the actors.

Grade: A

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