Friday, May 17, 2013

80s Revisited: The Accused

The Accused (1988)
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan; written by Tom Topor; produced by Stanley R. Jaffe & Sherry Lansing.

I've been thinking about this one for some time. I actually re-watched this a few months ago, but I really wasn't sure what to say about it. And I know a big part of the reason is just how awful this movie makes me feel. And, really, I'm not sure what to say about this movie other than it made me feel really awful.

This was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to deal so directly with rape. It has a visceral, confrontational frankness to it that is important to getting its message across. And it has two great lead performances, Jodie Foster (who won an Oscar) as the victim who wants to tell her story, and Kelly McGillis (who was a real-life rape survivor) as the ADA who sues the rape witnesses for criminal solicitation (after agreeing to prosecute the original rapists for a lesser charge in order to cut a deal). What's very interesting about this movie is that approach: that instead of going after the rapists (because any mature human being shouldn't need 111 minutes to prove to an audience that rape is a horrible crime), it goes after the people who were complicit in the crime by cheering it on and/or doing nothing to stop it. I think Roger Ebert summed it up best in his review: "verbal sexual harassment, whether crudely in a saloon back room or subtly in an everyday situation, is a form of violence - one that leaves no visible marks but can make its victims feel unable to move freely and casually in society. It is a form of imprisonment."

I stand disappointed in my generation that this is still such a relevant message today.

It's an uncomfortable film, and honestly, it's not a great film, but it is a very necessary film. It's graphic and damn hard to watch, but I don't like what it would say about me if it weren't.


Roger Owen Green said...

The escalating violence against women in the military - and they have guns - is appalling.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I agree with everything you said about this film. I saw it for the first time a little over a year ago and I remember thinking that it was, at once, dated and surprisingly still relevant. It is a necessary film, but not a spectacular one.

I had a huge problem with the decision to show the rape in graphic detail in the latter half of the film. Not that it shouldn't be a confronting or hard-to-watch film, given its subject. But the rape scene felt lurid to me. I also couldn't help but wonder whose POV it was supposed to be from. It felt voyeuristic and that sat badly with me.