Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Best Actor 1982: Paul Newman in The Verdict

Paul Newman received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying Frank Galvin in The Verdict.

I think the Verdict is a very well done court room drama, and personal character study, that I thought was a very emotionally effective film.

Frank Galvin is a incredibly downtrodden Lawyer who is at the bottom of the barrel, he has an office which is a mess, he lacks clients and work, the biggest social event in his life is making the jokes at the bar, heck he cannot do well at pinball. Paul Newman could not be more pathetic and anything but charming or suave here. Nothing like the old Newman image seen in something like Cool Hand Luke.

Newman looks aged, and even his eyes do not even look blue in this film they look like tired old eyes of a tired old man. That is to say I think he is incredible in these early moments as Frank Galvin as just a tired man drifting through life. Newman creates a truly sad portrait of a broken man particularly in his early moments trying to get work by offering legal work to the family of the recently deceased at the individual's funeral, sleeping on the floor of his office, waking up with his hangover, Newman shows Galvin own defeat without fault.

Frank Galvin is given a case by his friend (Jack Warden) that will give him some sort of chance to rehabilitate himself. Galvin initially takes the case seeing at a way to make a fairly quick buck. The case though is a malpractice lawsuit against doctors in a Catholic Hospital who caused  a woman to go into a permanent coma by using the wrong anesthetic while she was giving birth. The case though clearly effects Galvin, and he clearly starts to see as much more.

The start of this is shown in a very quiet moment where Galvin takes pictures of his client for evidence. Newman is absolutely stunning for me in this scene, his quiet expression and reaction clearly deeply effects Galvin, no words instead is all in Newman's reaction. Galvin is given an offer by the Church to avoid a trial, but avoid any justice to the doctors at fault. Newman again outstanding showing how much Galvin is truly effected on a deep level by this case. Galvin's need for justice in this case, is something deeply within something he needs to be able really be a descent person again, this again is not really spoken all that much but is made emotionally true, and incredibly clear by Newman.

Galvin though becomes less tired and slowly gains more confidence as the trial becomes closer. Galvin does not instantly become confidant as a lawyer and a person but Newman slowly portrays a growing strength in the character. He never becomes obviously charming in Newman's old way, but there is a quiet hint to his old charm in a great scene again by Newman in a scene where he picks up a  Laura(Charlotte Rampling). He talks finally with an amount of confidence, not a lot but a little showing Galvin's growth. He also shows this in court, his first days he pauses, and shows a lack of strength, but slowly gains his old abilities once more.

Galvin case though is not easy do to a hostile judge (Milo O'Shea) and an overly competent, corrupt, and confidant opposing lawyer (James Mason) who goes at great lengths to undermine Galvin's case. Newman makes Galvin simply empathetic for me as he struggles to find justice for his client and find his own redemption through the challenges. I thought an especially powerfully scene was when he loses his key expert witness. His sense of a sort of abandonment, and again losing hope, and his confidence once more. An especially striking scene is his moment of defeat where he states his failure to Laura in a heartbreaking scene.

Galvin though finds a witness and still attempts to desperately win the case. Newman made me personally feel Galvin's own desperation, and strive for some sort of justice. I feel Newman's performance simply is that powerful. I felt every single one of his win and loses both in and out of the court room. Newman is to me as authentic as one can be, and as truly powerful as a performance can be. I thought especially in his pivotal speech at the end of the film. His speech is so quiet, honest, and powerful. It is in ways a small speech, not say Atticus Finch's speech in To Kill a Mockingbird, but just a strong if not stronger because Newman makes the speech heartfelt, and a deeply soulful speech that made me not for a second question the outcome of the film. An outcome of the film made powerful, and completely deserved because of Newman's performance.


joe burns said...

I think he'll win..

dinasztie said...

He will win. He deserves it though. He's equally great as Hoffman, I just love Hoffman more.