The Judge Movie Review

imgresI have a really smart friend who we shall call Rebecca. She and I attend film festivals together, meet monthly to discuss films, writing, T.V. and life. She is way smarter than me, but I’m pretty sure she tolerates me because of my sharp tongue and quick wit. Anyway, I texted her as soon as I left The Judge last weekend and told her it was one of the best films of the year and she needed to see it. Immediately.

Here are the text messages that ensued. If you haven’t seen the movie, they won’t make sense. If you have seen it, then she will spoil your enjoyment of it – if enjoyment was your experience. So read further with care.

Rebecca: I saw The Judge last night.

Christine: Judging (get it, tee hee) from your lack of expletives, you didn’t like it?

Rebecca: I am so sorry. It was this year’s Philomena for me. Are you going to replace me on your friendship tree with Hilaria Baldwin? (Note: She thinks that Alec and I belong together, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the sharp wit to which I referred earlier.)

Christine: We are so done. You are dead to me.

Rebecca: Oh dear – in the world of “The Judge” women that means either I am (a) shot through a Gaussian filter watering the hydrangeas and am not allowed to talk and drop dead or (b) look like a high school volleyball player but am told to water the hydrangeas (and drop dead) or (c) married to freaky Vincent Donofrio (who never got an apology from his brother for crippling him) but sit creepily behind him and am never allowed to utter one word the ENTIRE movie (so could not even ask someone to call 911 for me) or (d) the wasted Vera Farmiga role in bad biker clothes and one black dress who pokes a whimpering Robert Downey Junior up my bar with a stick because I made George Clooney do it in “up in the air” – oh wait if I am a woman in “the judge” I am not allowed to talk…

Christine: You don’t have to look like a volleyball player, your ass has to look like a high school volleyball player’s ass. Quit exaggerating. And, why should he apologize to the big brother who got in the car without being tied up and was probably as drunk as Robert Downey Junior?

Rebecca: Not to beat my horse but I have more where that came from… the great falling out between father and son is…?! Robert Downey Junior is so mad at his father that he refuses to visit his mother for at least two decades (no matter how sweet she was) because RDJ got high, totalled the car their father probably bought for them, crippled his brother and ruined his professional baseball career? And the great compelling legal case I’m supposed to sit through is watching Ken Howard (in some truly bad chin shots) dispense justice over another judge who may have hit a rapist/murderer whose own mother visited him twice in 20 years – when that same murderer rapist was so drugged out that there is no way he could have ridden his bicycle in a straight line? I think it all comes down to this… I could have enjoyed the movie more if Robert Downey Junior’s head cleared the roof of his SUV and I could believe he was on the same team as Vera Farmiga even when wearing a pink Metallica T-shirt, unable to ride a bicycle, and she is the only car driving down the road – and if he could buck up and get through a scene with her without whining, whimpering or weeping…

Christine: Oh honey. You missed Downey’s brilliant performance. The nuance of taking his jacket off the chair when leaving the hospital and stopping to straighten the chair. As for visiting his mother, she wouldn’t leave the routine that kept her on the farm under the tyrant’s thumb. Downey’s ability to seethe with anger while being vulnerable is why he will probably have the Robin Williams Seymour Hoffman ending. He goes where we don’t dare. And the dialogue was great. And he did say he was sorry with every glance. Every hug. Did you need to hear it? Seriously? And, again, the bro was the older brother responsible for himself. The were both drunk in the car. I could go on but watching latest Homeland episode. So not good. (Note: I was trying to change the subject, but she’d have no part in that.)

Rebecca: And it didn’t bother you that we meet the older brother when he gives a Bob Dole handshake and then in the very next scene is moving his hand while lying on the couch? the amazing police work when they don’t find the only security camera footage until the trial has already started?

Christine: Nope. Not at all. None of those things bothered me in the least. I am a big picture person. Wallow in your details. It bothers me that they have crazy Carrie almost drowning her baby. (Note: Again with a reference to Homeland, desperately trying to move on, but some people just can’t do that. They have to beat a dead horse.) That bothers me. 

Rebecca: What would have been really interesting for me to watch is to have Robert Downey Junior’s mother still alive (barely) so she could weigh in on how these two men tossed their family down the tubes for so many years – to have her death be caused by someone the judge showed leniency towards – and then to watch the judge (who has revered the law for 50 years) take it into his own hands and have Robert Downey Junior – who has manipulated the law with no reverence for it – have to try to convince his father otherwise – and fail – and then realize the father blames himself for the leniency – the same thing he blamed his bad fathering on… And then have Robert Downey Junior grow up…

I’m sure you agree, she went too far. I picked up the phone.

“Don’t say a word bitch. Robert Downey Junior is one of the best actors ever, and his performance in The Judge made me cry all the way home. Literally. The pent up rage. The pain. The hope. All of which are present in most of us when it comes to our family, and I can’t help it if you had a better childhood than the rest of us. Live with it.” And, then of course I hung up. That’s the way to take control of a conversation that is out of control. I gave her the opportunity twice to move to Homeland. Not my fault she didn’t take it.

But, here’s the problem. She is right. There are way too many flaws – too many times they told us what they’d already shown us, but I still say there were amazing lessons to be learned about making sure you realize that what you think is the reason someone is the way they are might not be the reason at all. And, that Robert Downey Junior gives it all each and every time, and I, for one, thank him for it. And, the casting was great all around, although who can see anyone on the screen when Downey Junior is there?

So, Rebecca, or whatever your name is, yes, you are right as usual. But I still loved it, as I did Philomena, where you again showed no soul.

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