Tagline: The Truth Can Be Adjusted.
Synopsis: Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is a lawyer and corporate ‘fixer’ at one of the largest law firms in New York. Clayton reports directly to the firm’s co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) and quietly, efficiently takes out the trash. Sporting an unfavorable gambling habit, the burned out Clayton juggles a divorce and a failed business until he gets involved in a multi-million dollar class action suit with his friend and co-worker Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) who loses his senses and jeopardizes more than their law firms reputation.
Meat & Potatoes: If Tony Gilroy isn’t reason enough to watch this film, maybe the four powerful actors propelling this story will catch your fancy. George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack are each top-notch performers with long track records for entertaining, quirky and believable characters. Tony Gilroy the scribe is responsible for a tally of memorable films, from the Steven King adaptation Dolores Claiborne (1995), to Taylor Hackford’s The Devils Advocate (1997), and the Bourne Franchise to which he is credited.
The beginning of Michael Clayton has to be one of my all time favorites! The voice over narration by Tom Wilkinson is brilliant and a deft example of solid writing. Then we’re “in” the world of the story and nearly every character pops and resonates as the narrative unfolds. George Clooney delivers a strong, purposefully resolute performance as the white shirt ‘cleaner’ and Tilda Swinton is fearless. If you haven’t seen her performance in Julia, you must. No, right now. Write it down, do a search on-line, get your hands on this swaggering film of visceral depravity as a woman’s insatiable struggle to live the right life pushes her beyond boundaries she never knew she was capable of crossing.
Tom Wilkinson made his debut to American audiences in Peter Catteneo‘s widely successful and multiple Oscar-nominated comedy The Full Monty in 1997. He moved quickly to the forefront in bigger and bigger films, including my favorites In the Bedroom with Sissy Spacek and more recently 44inch Chest (which you’ll find a review here). His work as the frazzled, mentally unstable lawyer Arthur Edens is riveting and perhaps even more so for anyone who has either suffered from mental illness or lived with someone who has.
It’s hard to imagine that Mr. Pollack died in 2008. I forget from time to time just how significant his work influences my own and how often I’ve referred to his films over the years. For those who don’t know much about him, he was born in Lafayette, Indiana to a family of Jewish immigrants from Russia, the son of Rebecca (née Miller) and David Pollack, a semi-professional boxer and pharmacist.
I really appreciated Sydney Pollack‘s candid quality here – the understated way he delivers time and time again over a very lengthy career both in front of the camera as well as behind it. Check his list of credits for a smorgasborg of memorable films you’ll want to watch again and again. He was equally cooly unconcerned in Kubrick‘s Salut tout le monde! Eyes Wide Shut as the mysterious dark obsessive Victor Ziegler.
Bits & Bites: In tribute to Sydney Pollack, a bit more about his tremendous career. You can also read more here and here, plus review a list of his films over at Netflix.com here. (from Bing.com) Pollack directed more than 21 films and 10 television shows, acted in over 30 films or shows, and produced over 44 films. Some of his best known works include Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Absence of Malice (1981). His 1985 film Out of Africa won him Academy Awards for directing and producing; he was also nominated for Best Director Oscars for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Tootsie, the latter of which he also appeared in. Later films included Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995) and The Interpreter (2005).
The Closer: Michael Clayton takes you on a ride into the corporate misdoings of a large law firm and multi-national pharmaceutical company that one might find in any city anywhere in the world. Some of the best actors in the business are here with superb direction from writer/director Tony Gilroy. Watch this one again and again. I do.