Continuing to indulge my addiction to the voice and acting of Jeremy Irons, I watched Reversal of Fortune for the second time.
Courtroom dramas are a challenging genre because the need to stay within the courtroom and basically within the framework of the legal system place are huge restrictions that make the whole genre prone to being terribly boring. The script of Reversal of Fortune gets around these limitations by staying out of the courtroom as much as possible. The whole film is bookended by scenes of nurses washing a comatose Glenn Close as Sunny Von Bulow, whose husband, Claus, was tried for her attempted murder. In a rather eerie touch, Close herself narrates the opening scene, proclaiming that all that is about to unfold is connected to this woman who lay in a vegetative state. The bulk of the movie is really about the relationship between Claus (Irons) and the head of his legal team Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver), which is filled by suspicion, tension and uncertainly. “It is very hard to trust someone you don’t understand. You’re a very strange man,” the famed lawyer says in the key moment of the film. “You have no idea,” intones Irons.
Dershowitz and his team of law student aides play basketball during brief breaks from round-the-clock retrial preparation, and so we already know the case he is going to present before he goes to court. The sole scene in the courtroom is mercifully very short, the moment in which the judge accepts the introduction of new evidence, the one point that that Dershowitz was unsure of, and the basis of his whole strategy. The rest of the film basically involves the lawyer vacillating between thinking his client is a despicable person who is guilt and thinking he is a despicable person who is innocent, something which Silver and Irons play brilliantly.