Friday, March 18, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #91 WGA Script of All Time - The Verdict (1982)

[Quick Summary: When an alcoholic lawyer gets an "easy" personal injury case that is ready to be settled, he does the unthinkable & takes it to trial.]

Holy freaking cow.  Why have I not read more David Mamet?

He's known for his dialogue, but this script's subtext blew my mind.

On the surface, this is about a washed up lawyer who has only one, rather weak case.

Below the surface, Roger Ebert writes:

"Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman, seem to be going for something more; "The Verdict" is more a character study than a thriller, and the buried suspense in this movie is more about Galvin's own life than about his latest case."

How does Mamet do it? 

First, the trajectory of the case parallels Galvin's (the main character) personal recovery.

Second, when Galvin battles setbacks on the case, it's really about his own setbacks.

ex.  Early on, we learn that Galvin was a big firm lawyer who was accused of jury tampering on a case. He lost everything - wife, job, respect, etc. 

He gets now gets Deborah Ann's case.  She is in a coma now because she received the wrong anesthetic during delivery. 

Around p. 27, the doctors' lawyer offers Galvin a generous settlement of $210k...and Galvin refuses.  He wants the world to know the truth of what happened. 

But why?  Wouldn't it be better just to settle?

We only discover Galvin's reasoning around p. 53: He was also an innocent victim in the jury tampering case.  When he seeks justice for innocent Deborah Ann, he is also settling the score for his own innocent self.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I've never seen subtext that is felt rather than seen.  The craft was the sublime b/c everything was clear, but nothing was heavy handed or remotely on the nose.

The Verdict (1982)
by David Mamet

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