Year Released: 1985
Directed by: Richard Marquand, Terry Carr
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Glen Close, Peter Coyote, Robert Loggia
(R, 109 min.)
"To suspect a friend is worse than to be deceived by him." anonymous
This taut courtroom drama still packs a punch almost 30 years after its release, throwing the defendant and then the prosecution against the ropes. Caught in between is the beautiful defense attorney, in love with the law and all too soon with the accused himself, and trying to stave off any doubts that he really is an innocent man.
Let’s face it, the circumstantial evidence against Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges), the wealthy publishing magnate accused of murdering his heiress wife, is pretty damning. Sure, the grisly sexual nature of the death, the evidence of a break in, and the bloodied Forrester left semi conscious downstairs, at first point away from him. But the - shall we say - predatory D.A., Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote) doesn’t buy the almost theatrical nature of the crime scene for one minute. It doesn’t take him two shakes to find out that Forrester has gained complete control of all his wife’s assets upon her death and that the head wound he has “suffered” could easily have been self-inflicted. When the athletic club janitor reports seeing a long jagged edged hunting knife in Mr. Forrester’s locker, Krasny’s case as well as the senate seat he longs for, is all but gift-wrapped and tied up with a bow.
Enter the scene attorney Teddy Barnes, played by Glenn Close at the peak of her translucent beauty, before the image of her as an obsessed, knife-wielding stalker became permanently fixed in our brains via 1987’s Fatal Attraction. She agrees to take on Forrester’s defense, convinced by his palpable charm more than any external logic that he is innocent. Even her scruffy old pal, Sam (Robert Loggia), the over the hill private investigator she calls back into service, thinks her client probably did it. And her two children, bouncing between Mom and Dad in the most amiable divorce ever scripted or in real life, think the guy is guilty, too.
We find out more about her motivation as the case progresses, learning that Krasny plays fast and loose with the rules of discovery, particularly in a case from Teddy’s old days as a prosecutor working for him, one that haunts her to this day. An innocent man will not be railroaded again under her watch.
The courtroom scenes pique our interest as one side and then the other gains the advantage. One particularly damning testimony comes from a friend of the deceased who tells the court Mrs. Forrester was planning to divorce her husband. Teddy takes her down with a slow and deadly series of inquiries culminating in an incriminating letter that she forces the humiliated woman to read aloud to the jury. Raymond Burr couldn’t have done it any better.
Of course, Krasny counters with some good moves of his own, almost forcing Teddy to desert the case. But then when you are playing paddy cake with the accused, some of the normal thrust and parry of the courtroom draws more blood than usual. Just when all seems lost, an anonymous tip unearths a witness that puts everything in play once again.
And so it goes, even after the verdict is reached. Sometimes the real justice doesn’t come until after the trial is over, when all the facades of civilized behavior fade away before the primitive fury that lurks just beneath the surface in all of us.
I will have to confess, however, that the film wears better as a thriller than a courtroom drama. At times, for instance, Teddy Barnes seems too tied to her so called feminine emotions, engaging in some fairly foolhardy and unprofessional decisions, such as romancing the newly widowed accused murderer she is defending.
You see, we have evolved from the theatrics of TV’s Perry Mason, who never met a guilty client, to the realities of prosecuting the bad guys onLaw and Order. You might find a few of the comely assistant prosecutors of that latter series “involved” for a period with Jack McCoy, that aging Lothario, but these gals are hard nosed in court. And few of their defense adversaries quibble about the guilt of their clients, that not really being their concern.
But you can put all the assumed cynicism aside for a few hours, at least, and enjoy this well-crafted thriller that has at least as many twists and turns as this current election season.
(If this whets your appetite for classic courtroom drama, make sure to see this 1959 beauty starring Jimmy Stewart: Anatomy of a Murder.)
Instead of meeting her client in a the polished mahogany halls of her pricey law firm, attorney Teddy Barnes prefers to talk to him at his beach front house. I mean, can you blame her? The setting is certainly more stimulating, right down to the two gorgeous Arabian horses that he prances out for her on their first meeting, not to mention the wine and appetizers he plies her with as they labor over his defense.
Sure beats the takeout her less privileged colleagues gulp down in their dreary offices as they burn the midnight oil.
I’m with Teddy, even if I don’t have a handsome and charming client accused of knifing his wife to death. But let’s not dwell on those unseemly details for now, and instead concentrate on baking up some wonderful Baked Brie with Roasted Garlic and Nicoise Olives.
Baked Brie with Roasted Garlic and Nicoise Olives
Kalamata or other olives with assertive flavors may work as well.
- 2 whole heads of garlic
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup pitted Nicoise olives
- 4 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Separate the garlic cloves and spread them, unpeeled, in a baking dish. Bake until richly brown and soft, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool. (The garlic may be roasted up to several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.) When you are ready for final preparation...
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Squeeze roasted garlic out of their skins and spread over the surface of the Brie. Top with the olives.
- Bake until the cheese is soft and spreadable, 15-20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
Recipe Source: Suite101.com