Friday, November 14, 2014

Movie Review: The Judge

Donna and I have watched a couple of movies lately. The first one we watched was The Judge, starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.

The plot itself is a bit complex. It basically focuses on the character development of Hank Palmer (Downey), a highly successful -- and arguably unethical -- defense attorney in Chicago. He is in the midst of a troubled marriage, probably heading for divorce. The crux of the movie begins when he returns to his home in Indiana to attend his mother's funeral. Obviously, he and his father (Judge Joseph Palmer, played by Duvall) do not see eye to eye. The movie could end there, with Hank returning to Chicago following the funeral, except that in a rather bizarre twist, his father is involved in a hit-and-run incident. Hank stays on to defend his father and, in doing so, must confront his relationship with the elder Palmer. The final courtroom scene is the pivotal point of the movie, and it is rather unique.

Both Downey and Duvall bring their characters to life. I'm a big Robert Duvall fan, and can remember watching his brief appearance years ago as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Over the years, I've followed his career, and have especially enjoyed him in Tender Mercies, Joe Kidd, Open Range, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Secondhand Lions. His portrayal of Augustus McCrae in Lonesome Dove is probably my personal favorite.

In addition to watching the characters portrayed by Downey and Duvall spar with each other throughout the movie, I also was touched by those moments when Hank Palmer (Downey) became the caregiver to his father. I saw a little of the relationship I had with my own dad in his final year of life.

I think about this movie a great deal. I think about the need for some people to put their past behind them and to move along and away. But we should never entirely shut the door to our past. After all, we never can be entirely sure why people are motivated to do the things they do until the truth finally emerges. Sometimes we need to stop running and try returning home.

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