Have you ever wondered what parts of your life someone would choose to include in your very own biopic? Or are you waiting until you do something super significant to start thinking about that? Yeah, me too…
The most recent theatrically released biopic dove into a career-defining case of none other than Thurgood Marshall. You know, the guy who argued and won Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in front of the US Supreme Court he later became the first African American justice for in 1967? He did lots of amazing and historically significant things, but writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff chose to give us a glimpse into his life rather than try to cover it all.
Chadwick Boseman stars as Thurgood Marshall, alongside Josh Gad in the role of Sam Friedman, the white Jewish civil lawyer who ends up arguing this particular case for Marshall when the judge doesn’t allow him to argue outside of his district. Marshall agrees to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), a black man who was accused of raping socialite Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). Friedman gets roped into the case, and goes from having no interest in arguing for Spell/disrupting his comfortable life and stirring up trouble for his business or family, to having a better understanding how privileged that notion is and being determined to win the case.
Marshall made waves for the NAACP and made history as the first African American Supreme Court Justice, so this was a great story to shed light on right now because of it’s complexity and historical significance; a white man and black man working together, a black man in a place of power despite the discrimination he faced, a white man being forced to understand how deeply racism effects people, the importance of a fair trial and skilled counsel to argue for your case, etc. It even touched on how the media portrays colored people as opposed to white people, which is STILL [excruciatingly] relevant today.
I’m a huge fan of both Boseman and Gad, so individually their performances were really solid, but together…. freakin’ dream team! Their chemistry fit the transformation of the relationship between Marshall and Friedman perfectly. It was beautifully shot and written, but I’ll be honest with you – I wasn’t a huge fan of the flashbacks they used as a visual to the accounts the witnesses gave on stand. While I think they were a great device for telling this story (it would be so boring to just watch people talk the whole movie), but something about them just felt a bit soap opera-y. Overall though, the direction by Reginald Hudlin (known for House Party and Boomerang in the early 90’s, and recently producing Django Unchained) was pretty dang good. The comedy was subtle and friendly, the message clear and impactful, and the courtroom full of the perfect amount of drama.
Imma give Marshall a 7 out of 10.