The Pelican Brief (1993)
March 9, 2020 3:42 PM - Subscribe

A law student uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself and others in danger. The best of movies based on John Grisham's legal thrillers (in my opinion). The last film from Alan J. Pakula before his death (And similar to his earlier Paranoia trilogy, Klute, Parallax View and All the President's Men). Memorable Pelican theme by James Horner. Terrific cast. Love this.
posted by growabrain (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I watched this on a TV while selling plasma in 1993.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:51 AM on March 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

I also love this movie and can't resist watching it when scrolling through channels. Great tension and suspense!
posted by mefireader at 9:14 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I remember liking it, but was disappointed that Julia and Denzel's characters didn't get romantically involved like they did in the book. Presumably due to racism, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:56 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was on tv so frequently back whenever -- like, Beastmaster on HBO level frequent. I saw it umpteen times back then, but not for ages since.

Presumably due to racism, I guess.

I think I remember some article or internet discussion of the time pointing out a pattern of Denzel Washington nixing sex scenes with white women. And on the one hand, yeah, racism is probably involved somewhere in that decision. But in each instance, there seemed to be pretty solid script reasons for the no-sex. Like, apparently in "The Mighty Quinn" his character cheats on his wife with Mimi Rogers' character, and I completely agree with nixing that because how are you supposed to root for him and his wife getting back together at the end of the movie after that? So with "Pelican Brief", my memory is that Denzel claimed that while it worked in the book for the characters to be having sex, it wouldn't have worked in the movie because it would interrupt the suspense/pacing, and make the characters seem...I can't think of the right adjective...frivolous? Like, they're supposedly racing for their lives, but they're going to keep pausing for a boink? So, I don't know. Maybe it was a choice of not wanting an interracial relationship in the movie, either because of studio worries that audience racism would mess with ticket sales, or because Denzel Washington didn't personally want to portray it. But I can't disagree that it may have been one of those things that works fine in a legal-thriller-book but wouldn't work in a legal-thriller-movie.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:41 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was on tv so frequently back whenever -- like, Beastmaster on HBO level frequent.

HBO: Hey, Beastmaster's On!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:05 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I rewatched the movie the night I posted this, so my impressions are fresh. There was absolutely no place or reason for them to have sex in the movie. More generally: why do the leads always have to have sex? Unless it’s a romantic story, it’s better if they don’t.
Also, apart from the fact that Denzel’s father worked at the White House in a servant roll, vacuuming and quietly polishing tables while the president and aids conducted business, there was no mention or reference to race at all.
posted by growabrain at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2020

Eh, I don't recall the characters having sex in the book (but it's been a while...I think maybe it was implied they did after the drama was over), nor did I need them to bang in the movie. I just liked the book characters' chemistry and I see no reason for them not to date after under those circumstances.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:47 PM on March 13, 2020

I agree that any similar movie of the time would have had them hooking up and that it was transparently because of race that they didn't.

Really entertaining movie. I also very much enjoyed the book.
posted by latkes at 6:44 AM on March 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

A Mefite did the screens of WestLaw stuff that scrolls by onscreen when they are researching the case (as portrayed in the movie poster, above). Perhaps he will step forward and share some anecdotes about his brush with Hollywood.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:29 AM on March 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've walked out of two movies in my life.
This is one of them.

Honestly its been so long, I can't remember why, but I'm guessing wooden acting played a large part because I'm pretty tolerant of ridiculous plotting in a thriller movie.
posted by madajb at 2:18 PM on March 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

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