It has been 20 years since the release of The Pelican Brief; a political thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula. In 1993, the movie came across as an interesting political thriller that felt a bit like paranoid fantasy. Now, it feels like an uncomfortably plausible political coup. When two Supreme Court Justices are murdered, Tulane Law Student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) puts together a legal brief presenting an "unlikely little theory" about the killings. With her life in danger, Darby contacts Washington Herald (cough, Post, cough) reporter, Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington). Together they publish the story and repercussions of the shocking murders reach to the highest levels of government.
For Alan J. Pakula, director of 1976 movie All the President's Men, themes of fighting the system, corruption and politics are familiar territory, as is Washington, D.C. Local gems in The Pelican Brief are the water feature in the Intelsat building, Denzel's Howard University t-shirt and the fact that even he can't catch a cab in D.C.
Observations: The Pelican Brief film differs from the John Grisham novel in that Darby and Gray do not enter into a relationship over the course of the story. The character of Gray Grantham as conceived by John Grisham in the 1992 novel, is white. When Julia Roberts was tapped for the movie she personally requested Denzel Washington as her co-star saying, "he did amazing things with a character that didn't look like much on paper. What more could you want?'' The question of whether an interracial relationship presented on screen was now raised. Denzel Washington asked that the romantic relationship be removed for fear of offending audiences, both black and white. Much has been made of this but it's refreshing to see great interactions between a male and female character without needing the relationship to be anything other than platonic friendship.
Here are a few local spots of note that pop up over the course of the movie.
· Will It Be Denzel's Day? [Newsweek via The Daily Beast]
· Alan J. Pakula [Wikipedia]
· The Pelican Brief [Wikipedia]
· Intelsat [Wikipedia]
· The PNC Riggs Collection: Riggs Bank and the D.C. Community [GWU]
· Riggs Bank [Wikipedia]
· KNOTT: Neighbors fight alcohol-dispensing grocer [Washington Times]
· The Citadel [Official Site]
· Photos Released of Windowless Roller Rink Apartments [CDC]