If you haven't seen THE JUDGE, starring Robert Duval and Robert Downey,Jr. do it soon. I promise your time will be well-spent. The acting alone is superb, but what makes this such an incredible movie is its conveyance of universal truths of the human condition from birth until death. I know you may think covering so much ground in as little as two hours is impossible, but believe me when I say THE JUDGE does exactly that.
One of the opening scenes places Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) in the men's room of a California court house. When vehemently confronted by the prosecutor for his artful defense of a sleazy, rich guy, Palmer 'accidentally' pisses on his legal adversary's pant leg. Hank Palmer doesn't make excuses for his ability to successfully defend guilty people, and actually takes great pride in it. Upon returning to courtroom action, Hank receives a call informing him of his mother's death. He asks and is granted a continuance in order to return home for her burial.
I don't intend to give you a play-by-play account of the movie. My descriptions wouldn't come close to doing it the justice it deserves. But what I'd like to shed some light on is the many issues tackled throughout this amazing film.
To whom and where we're born is critical to who and what we become in our lives. Hank Palmer, the middle child of Judge Joseph Palmer and his wife, Mary, began his life's journey in a small town in Indiana. By no means am I trying to imply that having an accomplished father and a devoted mother gives one a huge advantage over those less fortunate. What I am saying is that from an early age the choices we make can either propel us forwards or thrust us backwards. We alone are responsible for the outcomes that ensue.
If we marry and have a family, our personal investment in both is required. Without any effort to be present in the lives of our partner and our children, being righteously shocked when infidelity and talk of divorce occurrs is extremely naive, verging on stupidity.
If we walk away from our roots deciding that we are so much better than those we left behind, we shouldn't expect to be welcomed back with open arms when a return is necessitated. Telling a young daughter that the father who raised you is 'dead to you' doesn't exactly prepare her for a warm first meeting, now does it?
The subject of death is thoroughly explored throughout THE JUDGE. A devoted mother and beloved wife dies, a promising baseball career is ended because of a careless accident, a young teen is drowned at the hands of a controlling boy friend, a scum bag murderer loses his life under questionable circumstances, the freedom of a notable public servant is snuffed out, a successful lawyer's strongly-held beliefs about family and fate fall by the wayside. And finally when Joseph Palmer's life ends in the middle of the lake he loved so much, do we realize maybe moreso than ever before that death is as much a part of life as is the living of that life.
Awakenings happen to all of the characters at some point in this film. Their enlightenments serve to remind us of the mistakes we've made along the way, while others give us a second chance to resolve our inner conflicts, forgive any perceived wrongs, and open ourselves to a better, more fulfilling existence.
For perhaps the last thirty minutes, I was in tears. My personal realizations tore at my heart, and during that time I was able to come to terms with certain events I had buried deep down so long ago. I was forced to wonder why I hadn't been able to forgive others completely, and knew that the hardest thing was to finally forgive myself. Ironically a movie mired in so much pain and regret, in the end lightened my spirit and renewed my hopes for a brighter tomorrow.
After all I've said, if you aren't inclined to see THE JUDGE, well that's too bad, verging on stupidity!