Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Judge

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 17th October, 2014
Time : 142 minutes
Director: David Dobkin; Writers: Bill Dubuque, Nick Schenk; Music : Thomas Newman
Starring : Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Leighton Meester, Emma Tremblay

This one is about father-son relationships and they make it about as complicated as it can get, throwing in lots of flashbacks, emotion, a dead mother, melodrama, two other sons and even a murder trial to keep us gripped as the narrative slowly unfolds.

Robert Duvall is the iron-handed, bull headed patriarch of the family, a respected, practicing judge at the court of the little town where they reside. Two of his sons live in the same town. Vincent D’Onofrio, the eldest, hasn’t really recovered emotionally from what could’ve been since an event from many years ago. Jeremy Strong, the youngest, isn’t really all there. Robert’s relied on his wife to be the emotional binding thread in the family. Now she’s gone. And he’s being charged for murder, a hit and run case that happened on the evening of his wife’s funeral.

Robert Downey Jr, the middle son, returns to town after twenty years, for his mother’s funeral. Doesn’t get along with his father at all, used to speak to his mom on the phone occasionally. Is probably about to get divorced, has a cute little daughter. Is one of the top lawyers in the country, with a fiercesome reputation for finding ways to get the guilty off. And his father wants nothing to do with him for his own defense.

There are bits that work and bits that don’t. Watching Robert as a normal screen person after a while, without either the iron exterior nor the garb of a famed fictional detective, he is very convincing as a man with lots of angst from his childhood, unresolved issues. Robert Duvall is good as the obstinate, opinionated man who is coming to terms with his own physical frailties and also the fact that the murder trial may destroy his forty-two year legacy as a judge in the town.

However, a lot of the things he does, do not make sense. There are decisions he makes regarding his trial which are whimsical, not in keeping with his logical demeanour as a judge. The film is also riddled with a lot of unnecessary sub plots. And, almost like a Hindi film, this one is injected with deliberate tear-jerker moments at almost every opportunity. Everyone has unresolved issues from the time Robert left, about twenty years ago, including his then girl-friend / childhood sweetheart, Vera Farmiga, who is now a successful local businesswoman and a single mother.

Robert’s interesting bumper sticker methodology of juror selection was the funniest part of the film, with ‘Lost Wife And Dog – Reward for Dog’ probably the piece de resistance. Billy Bob Thornton, as the opposing out of town attorney does make the trial interesting but this film isn’t a courtroom drama. It isn’t about the law. Its about relationships. Coming to terms with our actions and events from many years ago. And hopefully, finding some closure and peace while we’re at it.

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