Hello movie friends, today I was seduced by the opportunity to see both Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall sharing the same screen.
The basic story is about big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Downey) returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s esteemed judge (Duvall), is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family in the most gut wrenching way.
At 141 minutes, The Judge isn’t a simple courtroom drama. Instead the story takes a hard look at Midwestern family life from the point of view of the returning son. Prodigal or survivor? It’s about Hank’s struggle to understand his relationship with his father and to accept where he came from. It’s about identity, family, and all the messiness and contradictions of life. It takes it’s time to establish the background of this family, touching on a hint of a mystery, disease, death, love, despair and redemption in the process.
Robert Duvall is captivating as the bull-headed, moralistic judge and Hank’s father. Where others would let Hank soften under his father’s pressure and training, Robert Downey Jr. keeps Hank strong and sharp. In his best role yet, Robert Downey Jr. shows us that he has matured into one of the solid actors working today. Together they offer very engaging performances.
Billy Bob Thorton is intense as the prosecutor and Shepherd is very good as the small town lawyer at Downey’s side. Unnecessary, and almost forced characters, were Vera Farmiga and Leighton Meester as mother and daughter. I know every film needs a romance story but it felt like it got in the way and could have been cut from the final film.
The Judge is one of those rare films that tell a strong story without selling out to the usual Hollywood exaggerations. I don’t know that I was ready for the strong emotions it evoked from me, but it’s definitely worth sitting through for the riveting performances by both Downey and Duvall, who should both be up for Oscar nominations for their roles. You will quickly be reminded precisely why Duvall is one of the most enduring screen performers of all time.