What the film does succeed in doing is taking a deep look at a new kind of discrimination that grew as AIDS became more prevalent in the minds of the general public and how some people’s hatred towards gays got even more fueled as this new disease became a harsh and frightening reality in the world. I was a bit surprised to see the quote “An emotional powerhouse!” on the back cover of the DVD because as it does have its share of emotional scenes, they’re far from overwhelming and it isn’t likely that that is what you’ll take away from it in the end. The most memorable, powerful scenes, in fact, are those awkward moments that are examined as we see how people around Andrew react upon learning of his illness – the most famous ones being Washington’s reaction to Hanks in his office and the confrontation in the public library between Hanks and an employee there.
Demme also does an admirable job in making the City of Brotherly Love a real presence in the movie. The opening credit sequence is a beautiful montage of all the great sights of the city and its people, giving us a real sense of the metropolis. From the rich neighborhoods to the slums, from the working class to the homeless sleeping on the streets – it all plays wonderfully as we witness many of them waving to the camera, all from different backgrounds, cultures and races, and all very proud to be Philadelphians. To me, it’s one of the best opening credit sequences in recent memory. Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” plays over it all and it’s still as emotionally involving as it was back when it was ruling the airwaves in ‘93. The song is bookended nicely by Neil Young’s equally moving “Philadelphia” for the movie’s final sequence featuring home videos of Beckett as a child, playing and enjoying life to its full extent, as only a child could. The performances are ace, across the board, with a special tip of the hat going out to Washington and Jason Robards, who is always brilliant but seems to especially shine in Demme films (see: MELVIN & HOWARD). I’d qualify PHILADELPHIA as being a very good movie but falling just short of being great; it just didn’t seem to leave that lasting impression, a movie like this is expected to leave.
People Like Us: Making Philadelphia (57 minutes): An impressive documentary that encompasses every aspect that went into the production of the film. Everything from casting, music, remembrances, public adoration, public outcry as well as all the many motivational elements that contributed to the film being made are included here; from its early stages of development up until Hank’s very moving Oscar speech. All the main actors and many of the crew contribute here.
One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other in the Grave (1:17 minutes): A moving documentary that explores the many dialogues and personalities among AIDS-stricken patients frequenting a private New York clinic, circa 1992. A friend of the Demme family, Juan Bota, thought of bringing in a camera to make a video document of all his visits there by recording many of the conversations and interactions among the group; all in the hope of bringing some more understanding and a humanity to the disease. Many of the patients were dying or died soon after the filming. Bota died about halfway through.
Deleted Scenes: There are six, very short deleted scenes in total. Nothing spectacular here, should be good to check out of sheer curiosity.
Courthouse Protest Footage and Interviews: This is an extended version of the courthouse sequence in the film when Hanks and Washington come outside to face an onslaught of reporters, protestors and gay rights activists. There is about 3-4 minutes of interview footage with protestors and activists that didn’t make it into the film. The footage looks very amateurish since it’s all shot on video and isn’t transferred to film yet.
Original Making-Of Featurette (5 minutes): After the hour-long documentary and the audio commentary track this feature felt incredibly redundant. The fact that it’s only 5 minutes long makes it all the more useless. The only difference is you’ll see a few more bits of “on the set” footage.
Joe Miller TV Spots: This is pretty funny. See Washington’s cheesy TV spots for his law firm. This is a very typical slimeball lawyer TV ad.
Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia Music Video