Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Absence of Malice" (1981) - Movie Review

The democracy of journalism is a free pass used right, wrong and whatever between with a righteous stamp to it. The right to know as the reporters use is not the right for the privacy. It is a cruel standard and the remedy is beyond a point of little too late. An innocent person can wander scorned with a tattooed prejudiced opinion on the streets. Association with people makes the public sketch the characters of others, easy to do and free of charge and nothing wrong in speculating is the liberty to have a guilt free gossip. When it ends up in a paper, it is catastrophe to the involved people and it is irreparable. In “Absence of Malice”, Sydney Pollack gives Michael Gallagher’s (Paul Newman) peaceful life being brought to the troubled sea by a rugged and ruthless officer of the law Elliott Rosen (Bob Balaban) along with a shabby journalism by an aspiring young reporter Megan (Sally Field).

Pollack’s introduction to Paul Newman’s Michael is reflective of the film. He is shown walking in stooped grief of his bootlegger dad’s funeral watched as a taped film in the office of the Strike Force run by Elliott. Then he comes in a simple jeans and a checkered shirt into the office of Miami Standard. He has simple question for Megan, who is the “knowledgeable source” she is talking about in the article saying Gallagher is the key suspect in a murder investigation. Megan was left in the office of Elliott with the investigation file of Gallagher like a hungry dog and bowl of food. Elliott purposely leaks the story to tighten the grips over Gallagher for some information of a dried homicide case of the local union member. Michael at the day of the murder was with his lady-friend Teresa Perrone (Melinda Dilon) and reasons he cannot reveal.

Pollack shows the insides of the newspaper office with Megan preparing the material. We learn the nuances of wording it and the covering their butts discussion with the lawyer. Gallagher summarizes Megan’s seek of truth, she simply eaves drop. Anything talked to a reporter becomes a story. As long as there is a source and per se reference to the speaking person, everything is fine. The story is made and the opinions are left with the people. While the freedom of press is paramount, the responsibility that comes with it is often sparsely considered. With the current news coming out in the days, it is sensationalism and the idealistic aspirations of true media workmanship diminishing day by day.

A film with very simplistic politics following the people running across to get the job performed by any means possible. Elliott thinks he is doing the best to solve the case, Megan is driven by her reporter instincts and the district attorney (Don Hood) has his own. The actions of these result in a tragedy. Pollack narrates with Newman’s calm performance. He has learned to go for a simple life. He made the bootleg into a legitimate business and works hard. This is a person knowing his association will haunt his life. That has been the case in his past. We know from the casual manner he comes to Megan’s office and tosses the newspaper. He wants to know the person to deal it immediately. He is not surprised by the accusations but is deeply worried by it.

This is not an edge of a seat thriller or smartly dialogued screenplay. It follows the day to day aspect of the media and underlines the implications of the lines printed on a paper. The ripple effect can be a deadly device in triggering people to their edges. The film’s retaliation act by the protagonist appears too smart when it comes to the room with a short and powerful performance by Wilford Brimley as Assistant US Attorney James Wells. He is smart in terms of estimating people’s reaction. He plays the people involved in troubling him. He is not proud but has to do something for this continuous blame.

Pollack relies on the bitterness of the reality and the common sense in the political scenario and then overturns the same in his protagonist’s cleverness. He did so in “Three Days of the Condor”, a man trapped by the job he thought to be safe making him prime target overnight to the company he works, CIA. Here Gallagher is a simpleton getting dragged by his family’s reputation and acts to the bother. He succeeds but with a sorrow face and joyless relief. For Megan, she gets her lesson quite hardly, twice and seeks forgiveness within herself.

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