TV Review: Confirmation (2016)

Posted: May 29, 2016 in Drama, TV
Tags: , , ,

 

confirmation

In 1991, after the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, President George HW Bush nominated Judge Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce) to replace Marshall.  Thomas appeared to be headed for an easy confirmation, until Ted Kennedy staffer Ricki Seidman (Grace Gummer) asks college professor Anita Hill (Kerry Washington) if Thomas had ever sexually harassed her.  Hill agrees to tell her story to Seidman, if she keeps her story private.  Of course the story leaks, and Hill decides to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Thomas also testifies.  Lurid details emerge, Thomas vehemently denies the allegations.  Late in the process, another woman, Angela Wright (Jennifer Hudson) agrees to testify, she has her own story to tell about Thomas.  Does Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear) allow Wright to testify?

If Joe Biden was running for President, this tv movie would remind Democrats why they should not vote for him for President.  He comes across as incompetent at best, and politically motivated at worst in rushing through the confirmation hearings.  Senator Alan Simpson’s reputation has been rehabilitated quite a bit in the 25 years since the hearings, as a Washington truth-teller, but this movie should remind people how viciously he went after Ms. Hill during the hearings.  The movie tries to make a larger point than the usual Democrat/Republican argument, it takes both parties to task on their treatment of Ms. Hill.  The larger argument that Confirmation tries to make was that the men on the Judiciary Committee did not understand sexual harassment, and weren’t particularly interested in Hill’s story.  The second point the movie makes is that Republicans are better at playing political hardball than Democrats.  This is undoubtedly true.  The Iraq War, supply side tax cuts, the list goes on and on, Republicans play hardball Democrats capitulate.

The acting is mostly very good, Kerry Washington is both vulnerable and forceful as Anita Hill.  I didn’t think anyone could top her performance. But along comes Wendell Piece, and he is just as forceful and persuasive as Kerry Washington, they should both be nominated for Emmys, and so should Greg Kinnear.  I don’t know how long Kinnear studied Biden, but he got Biden’s voice, inflections, cadence, everything down cold.  I really thought the director had dubbed in Biden’s voice at times,  but it was all Kinnear.  Less stellar was Jennifer Hudson, who just came across as angry, and she is simply not a good enough actress to convey righteous indignation.

The direction is mostly good, the pacing is quick, the performances from 3 of the 4 leads are good, I do wish the director used less news footage.  Rick Famuyiwa, who got a lot of attention for Dope, is trying to give the movie a documentary feel, but the clips from the news shows about the hearings are gimmicky, and add to the tv movie feel.

Confirmation:  Hill on the hill.

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