'Marshall' is a film I had excitedly circled on the calendar, as courtroom dramas and biopics are some of my favorites. Yet, some weird filmmaking decisions left me frustrated with the movie.
‘Marshall’ is about a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases. Peculiar casting and storyline choices take this from a great film to an average movie.
The writers of the film, Jacob and Michael Koskoff do no favors for ‘Marshall’ when they pick a court case in which Marshall is banned from speaking during the trail. Director Reginald Hudlin then doesn’t creatively try to give Chadwick Boseman a voice, and the film becomes more a story of Sam Friedman’s evolution. Josh Gad plays Friedman, and it’s hard to believe him as a dramatic actor, let alone the lead in a high profile court case.
Hudlin could have been trying to be as historically accurate as possible, but it doesn’t make a memorable movie. Biographical films and courtroom dramas are a dime a dozen, and it is up to the writers and director to make the film stand out. All I wanted from this film was to feel the drama, weight, importance, and compassion, but I left the theater empty and cheated because this was glimmers of it.
Marina Squerciati plays Sam Friedman’s wife, Stella. As the mother of a Jewish family, Squerciati has the best story-arc of the film, as her compassion evolves and impact of the heartbreak of the Nazi invasion overseas. This small, powerful moment in the movie is what I wanted to see more of.
Boseman, Kate Hudson, and especially Sterling K. Brown came to the film on a mission to give an excellent performance. Brown plays the accused rapist Joseph Spell, there are two scenes in the movie where Spell explains why he is scared of the police that is so powerful and the scenes are all Brown, as it’s a closeup on his face.
There are serval narrative choices that are simply baffling. Several women in the film are enamored with Marshall’s presence, and the way the scenes are filmed there is an awkwardness to them. This filmmaking choice leads me to believe Marshall is cheating on his wife, which wasn’t the case.
The second is, Marshall is always traveling, and work comes first, but how it was portrayed on the screen, Marshall comes off cold and uncaring. These moments should have been self-sacrificing and inspirational.
There is a balance a filmmaker has to achieve between historical accuracy and film enjoyment, and Hudlin misses the mark.