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Five Cent Cine At Home: Marshall

High Drama

“Marshall” is a story of the young lawyer who in 1967 would become the first black person to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, recounted through one relatively minor case. The facts, which unfold in 1940 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, make for high drama. A white socialite, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), accuses her black chauffeur, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), who has a history of abandoning his family and of petty crimes, of raping her while her husband is out of town, then throwing her off a bridge, bound and gagged.

Into this local hotbed strides the NAACP in the person of the brash, self-confident Marshall, played with bravura by Chadwick Boseman (“Black Panther”). This is a Marshall very different from the reserved Supreme Court justice. In this case Marshall’s side-kick — and here is where truth is stranger than fiction — is a Jewish lawyer, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), enlisted against his better judgment into this legal fight and ordered by the court to speak for Marshall, who is in essence himself gagged.

Twists and turns of the plot add to this account of racial prejudice and survival. The City of Buffalo, New York, with its period courtrooms and Art Deco 30-story City Hall, shows off its architectural bones while standing in for Bridgeport.

“Marshall” has been called one of the most overlooked black films of 2017. That’s accurate.

Date: 2017

Director: Reginald Hudlin

“Marshall” ★★★ (out of 4 stars)

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown.

Oscars: Best Achievement Original Song – “Stand Up for Something” (Common, Diane Warren).

Runtime: 118 minutes

Available: Streaming Amazon Prime Video; rent or purchase Redbox, Amazon, and elsewhere. See JustWatch here.

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Written by 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer.

Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar.

​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done.

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